Where Does Sugar Cane Come From?

sugar-cane-come Credit: Rob and Stephanie Levy/CC-BY-2.0

Sugar cane is a tropical and subtropical crop that originated in New Guinea and India and is now grown in more than 70 countries across the world. Approximately half of the world’s sugar cane is grown in India and Brazil.

Sugar cane grows well in areas that receive a lot of sun and water and that have well-drained soil. It takes sugar cane approximately a full year to reach maturity, but in some places, including Louisiana, it can reach maturity in as little as 6 months. Once the cane reaches maturity, it is harvested by chopping down the stems while leaving the roots to re-grow.

The cane is taken to the factory where the sugar is extracted. The first step in the process involves removing the cane juice, which is done using a wringer or large roller mills. The juice is dirty due to the soil from the fields where the cane grows, but it is cleaned using slaked lime. The juice is then thickened by boiling off the water, which allows the juice to form a syrup. Additional water is boiled off during the last stage until crystals begin to form. The crystals are dried and finally taken to storage, and the raw sugar, which closely resembles brown sugar, forms a sticky brown mountain. The sweet by-product of sugar is called molasses.