The main objective of AKER program is to make sugar beet competitive with Brazilian sugarcane by 2020, since the production cost in Brazil is the current global benchmark.

ressources-genetiques-paveThe yield of sugar beet has grown steadily by 2% per year for thirty years, thanks to a good relationship between climate change (rising temperatures in spring) and genetic improvement. Broadening the genetic base and improving variability as planned in the AKER programme aim to double this rate. The genetic improvement of sugar cane, however, is hampered by the complexity of the genome, although in the short-term it will probably benefit from transgenic technologies.

At the same time, the production costs of sugar cane in Brazil are increasing rapidly due to the economic development of the country, with the consequences in terms of wages, environmental standards, land prices, interest rates and exchange rates.

In 2012, the competitiveness gap between Brazilian sugar and European sugar is no more than 30%. The gap is narrowing, but it is mainly due to the lengths of the campaigns (220 days in Brazil against 110 in France) that reduce manufacturing costs proportionally.

For the future, we can envisage three competitiveness scenarios relative to sugar cane:

  • "low" scenario: no productivity gain for sugar cane; genetic progress absorbed by higher costs.
  • "medium" scenario: increased productivity of sugar cane remains the same (0.56% per year).
  • "high" scenario: productivity gain of 1% per year; significant increase of sugar cane genetic progress combined with a moderate increase in production costs.

Through the AKER programme the first two scenarios (low and medium) will result in an improvement in competitiveness of sugar beet face to sugar cane. In the last scenario, the goal could be reached, but only in the longer term.