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How Sweet It Is

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 27 June 2012 | Views [1065]

Two Australians do the work of dozens in Uganda

Two Australians do the work of dozens in Uganda

Sugar is big business in coastal Queensland.  Lots of rain and warm sunshine make it the sweetest sugar around.  The seemingly endless fields are ready for harvesting and the smell of burning sugar, like toasted marshmallows, fills the air.

Cutting cane used to be a labor intensive process like what we watched in Uganda.  First the fields were burned in bright, short-lived fires to rid them of snakes and rats.  Lean, muscular men, brought in from Nigeria, their ebony skin shining with perspiration, cleared the fields with their lethal cane knives.  They were paid a dollar or two a day for this dirty, back-breaking work.

In Australia, with its high minimum wages ($20/hour) manual labor isn't cost effective.  Instead harvesting machines looking like something from a sci-fi movie move through the cane cutting the stalks and shooting the cane into tractor-towed trailers.  A network of narrow-gauge railroads that criss-cross the roads carry the cane to the mills with their tall stacks belching steam and smoke.  As soon as the cane has been harvested the fields are replanted for next year's crop.

 

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