- By Aleks
- 28 October, 2012
- Comments Off
RIGA – On April 14, 1935, about 3,000 people gathered inside the main city theater in Jelgava, home of a sugar refinery. They came to hear presentations about benefits of eating sugar in what would become the launch of the nationwide campaign to promote sugar consumption in Latvia for the following months.
“Doubling the consumption, we will be able to double the number of sugar plants and beets fields, creating more jobs for workers,” the director of the state sugar monopoly told the gathered crowd.
The state sugar monopoly produced almost 54,000 tons of sugar in the previous year, the biggest harvest in Latvia’s history. Storing sugar was an expensive affair. Because the cost to produce sugar by the state monopoly was seven times more expensive than the price of sugar on the world market, the state could not import sugar.
So local officials, sugar lobby, and bosses at the state sugar monopoly spearheaded the nationwide campaign to promote sugar consumption, saying that Latvians consume much less sugar compared to the Danes, the Swedes and the Germans. The newspapers were flooded with articles about benefits of sugar, promoting the national pride in sugar refineries and Latvia’s self-sufficiency in sugar production for its own needs. One headline declared that in 1935 Latvia would not need to import any sugar. Another article even suggested that the world’s oldest beets-to-sugar refinery was founded in Riga in 1794.
The state promoted alleged health benefits of sugar. “Sugar consumption will give you a boost of energy and strength,” one doctor told the group in Jelgava. “Sugar is necessary for the body to fight various diseases.”
The Prime Minister Karlis Ulmanis also took part in the propaganda campaign. Speaking to farmers in Valmiera, he said, “Put now two spoons of sugar instead of one!”
In spite of all its efforts, the sugar consumption campaign flopped. The headlines of the state-controlled newspapers proclaimed the great response from the people of Latvia to eat more sugar. People flooded many propaganda events. They watched sugar propaganda films that flooded the cinemas. They read colored booklets telling them to eat more sugar. They listened to speeches, promoting sugar consumption. They applauded the speakers.
But they never acted.
In spite of the campaign, the sugar consumption per capita fell in 1935, compared to the previous year. At the start of the campaign, the sugar price rose, making it difficult for Latvians to spend money on the patriotic duty of purchasing healthy Latvian sugar. As a result, the sugar consumption dropped from 21.7 kg per person in 1934 to 21.2 kg per person in 1935. By 1939, after several years of bad sugar beets harvest, the state monopoly was forced to think about importing sugar once again. The increased consumption over the years depleted the sugar reserves and the government turned to limiting sugar consumption by rationing through government-issued sugar cards.
Nevertheless, to this day, people of that generation take three spoons of sugar with their tea – one for each Latvian sugar refinery.