Sugar comes from the juice of sugarcane, which is a type of giant grass. Like most grasses, sugarcane makes its own food source – a sweet juice containing sugar – and stores the food it does not need in its stalk. Sugarcane grows best in tropical climates where it thrives on a combination of bright sunlight, heat, consistent rainfall and fertile soil. That’s what makes Queensland such a great cane-growing centre.
These are planted in furrows, fertilised and then watered. In moist, warm conditions, the cane grows quickly and is usually ready to harvest in 10-18 months. Mature cane stands 2-4 metres high and is usually harvested between June and December in the Southern Hemisphere.
Once it’s been cut by mechanical harvester, the cane is taken to a sugar mill where it’s shredded and heavy rollers squeeze out the sweet juice. The juice is clarified to remove impurities and boiled to create a concentrated syrup. This syrup is seeded with raw sugar crystals in a vacuum pan and boiled to grow crystals about 1mm in size. These are tumble dried and stored in bulk bins until they are loaded on to sugar trains and taken to the nearest bulk sugar terminal.
Bulk raw sugar can be stored for a long time and is easy to transport in bulk ships. Raw sugar has to be refined for consumption to meet food-grade standards. Refining sugar is a series of processes designed to clean and purify the raw crystals. The crystals are then reformed into the various types of sugar you use at home, or that are used in industrial food and beverage manufacture.
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