Mexican sugar growers occupied sugar warehouses across the country Monday to demand a reduction in fructose imports, the CNC peasant confederation said.

The president of the UNPC growers union, Daniel Perez Valdes, said in a statement that the sugarcane farmers began protesting at 7:00 a.m. at mills supplying Mexico's 53 sugar refineries.

The growers want tighter import quotas on fructose, "which has become the main sugar substitute used by several food industries," the statement said.

Media reports indicated the protests were staged at sugar mills in the states of Campeche, Morelos, Puebla and Veracruz.

Federal agriculture department figures indicate Mexico produced 5.1 million tons of sugar in the 2010-2011 harvest.

The sugar industry is historically important in Mexico and the sector currently employs roughly 2 million people directly and indirectly.

Roughly 30 billion pesos ($2.38 billion) worth of sugar is produced annually in Mexico, with most of the output concentrated in the states of Veracruz (37 percent), Jalisco and San Luis Potosi (11 percent each) and Oaxaca and Chiapas (6 percent each). EFE