March 25, 2010

The Sugar Cane

The Sugar Cane
Sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) is a giant, thick, perennial grass of the plant family Graminae.

Raw sugar is derived from the sweet sap in the stems, which can grow up to 4.5 m (15 ft) tall and 2.5 – 5 cm (1 – 2 in) in diameter.
The plant needs a minimum of 1,250 mm (49 in) of rain annually and a short dry season to aid maturation. It is grown in moist of the world’s tropical regions; it can be planted and harvested by hand, so was suited to areas where labor was plentiful.

The cultivation of sugar cane probably originated in the South Pacific and spread from there to India and then to the Arabian countries and Europe.

Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506) is believed to have brought sugar cane to the New World on his second voyage west across the Atlantic in 1493, though it is possible that it had already introduced to the Arawak and Carib peoples of the Caribbean by a rout across the Pacific.

By the 17th century sugar plantations had been established throughout the West Indies, Islands such as Jamaica and Barbados were developed by British colonizers primarily for their ability to produce sugar for the home market, and were part of the notorious “Atlantic triangle” that linked Britain, West Africa and the West Indies in trading slaves and sugar.

Ships sailed from British port to collect slaves from West Africa to work on the sugar plantations. They then return to their home port laden with cargoes of refined sugar, rum and molasses.

The colonial plantations were adversely affected in the 19th century by slave uprisings and the eventual emancipation of the slaves, which made labor more expensive, as well as by soil exhaustion, competition from Cuba and the other Hispanic islands, and by the growth of the European sugar beet industry and loss of monopoly access to the British market.

However, the modernization of plantation, made possible by more capital and land, more efficient management and more sophisticated technology, ensured the survival of a substantial sugar economy in the Caribbean.
The Sugar Cane

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