Friday, August 03, 2012

The Sugar Mysteries

R and I recently had coffee at a local cafe. Not unusual. R adds a spoon of sugar to his coffee, that is one sachet of sugar that normally comes with your coffee. It looked a little different to the usual sachet, which caused us to examine the sachet. It came from a foreign place that did not use our usual spelling. It was either Montenegro, somewhere in what we used to call the Baltics, and somewhat earlier when they immigrating to Australia, bloody Balts, or Montegranaro in Italy.

Extraordinary. Australia grows its own sugar and grows enough to export sugar. Why do we import it? Does it cost more for our machines to make sachets and inject sugar into them than it does other places?


  1. Hello Andrew:
    This is a mystery which applies not only to sugar!

    We often look at foreign imports totally unable to understand why the product is not home produced.

  2. As Jane and Lance commented, there are so many examples of this in so many areas of food production. It is a frustration.

  3. As I have no answer to this puzzle let me fabricate a possibility:

    Cafe operator buys coffee in quantity and only from one provider: The provider of said beans, to "sweeten" the deal and repay cafe operator's loyalty, provides a special price for complementary products such as sugar...
    Provider /Importer of beans in turn obtains a special deal for complementary products from overseas sources.

    How is this economically practicable?
    The sugar packers buy bulk product [perhaps from Australia] and have the know-how and processing equipment [weighing, wrapping, boxing etc] and access to a large enough market to support a huge output thereby lowering the unit cost - so much so that the sugar can be shipped from Australia, processed and shipped back for a smaller unit price than if it were weighed, wrapped and boxed all in Oz.

    Aha, I hear you think [if you have not already snorted and moved on] - isn't the cost of transport what kills Australian manufacturing's competitiveness in the first place? [Apart from the high wages demanded by greedy ungrateful workers].

    I suspect that transport costs per unit, like many others, could be much lower had we access to large markets.
    We have yet to find our niche. Wayne Swan is looking in his Springsteen vinyl collection for our niche, as I type.

  4. I think the same about our garlic. Why is it that you cannot buy Australia garlic in the stupidmarkets? I think I'm gonna start growing my own!

  5. JayLa, I recently heard how Italian canned tomatoes can be shipped to Australia and sell for a considerably cheaper price in our supermarkets. The sums added up. In the case of tomatoes, it is about volume.

    Victor, I hope like we do, you try to buy Australian. But sometimes we don't when the price difference is just too extreme.

    FC, that is quite plausible and follows what I said above about tomatoes. We don't have the markets or the local consumption. I am not sure if I like Swanee more or less for his like of Springsteen. Of course there is motive behind him 'humanising' himself.

    Fen, you just can't. If you owe yourself one luxury in life, make it locally grown organic garlic. But yes, grown your own.

  6. I suspect it is what FruitCake said, Australian sugar sent overseas, packaged and sent back to us. Keep an empty packet next time and google the company to find out.
    @Fenstar deLuxe; Australian garlic is available in supermarkets, we have it in Coles right now. For a while it was in small net bags with about 8 bulbs per bag, now you can get smaller bags with 2 bulbs per bag. Buy some and plant it. After harvesting, replant some of your home grown cloves and repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually it will become "localised". Truly local garlic, from your own yard. Never buy chinese garlic, they bleach it to get it so white. Search heritage nurseries and get white, purple, and even Russian red garlic. (I haven't done this yet)

  7. River, the cafe is not far away, so I will make a point of getting some sugar and following it up. Thanks for the garlic info.

  8. Just a few weeks ago I realized that the fish I bought was from Vietnam, I was horrified and from then on have checked everything I buy...Vietnam, can you believe it!!

  9. Grace, you might be the last person to know. They are farmed on a huge scale.