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The History of the Barbados Sugar Cane Industry

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Sugar Cane (Saccharum)
The Sugar Cane plant is jointed with stalks and can grow up to (20ft). It is rich in sugar and is a member of the Perennial Grasses. Sugar cane is usually grown in warm or tropical regions

During the 1700s, the main source of revenue in Barbados was cotton and tobacco. As those industries started to fail because of the lack of labour, a decrease in prices and demand, competitors with better quality tobacco, as well as a new market for a cheap sweetener alternative, the sugar industry emerged.

The Sugar Revolution

In 1642, Barbados was introduced to sugar farming by the Dutch, and this became the new source of revenue and has since become a major part of Barbados' history. For years Barbados only used sugar for feedstock, as fuel and in the production of rum, but by 1644 the bigger plantations were exporting sugar. Barbados then became one of the most attractive British colonies. Land values went up as more wealthy British capitalists came to start-up Sugar Plantations.

Many of the plantations had grinding mills which were used to extract and process the cane juice. Sugar was then sent to Britain to be refined along with molasses and rum.

By the 1800's there were over (10) Sugar Factories throughout the island, the cane was harvested by hand and then loaded manually for transportation to factories. Barbados' sugar Industry has since become fully mechanical with the latest in technology.

The Decline

As the cost of sugar production increased and the price of sugar in the international market dropped, it became inevitable for many sugar factories to close, hence the decline of the sugar industry. As the Beet Industry emerged the European Economic Community (EEC) was less willing to pay top dollar for sugar in its raw state.

By the 1900's Barbados' Sugar Industry was down to (2) sugar factories; Portvale Sugar Factory in St. James and Andrew's Sugar Factory in St. Joseph. The Industry's labour force deteriorated as the country became more developed and the population became more educated. Some persons considered it slave work others thought it was work for the uneducated.
As a result of the limited sugar factories, loading points had to be set up at 'Bulkeley's in St. George and Carrington in St. Philip, both closed factories.

In recent times Barbados' Government and all associated players in the industry have been discussing solutions to the problems and have decided to tap into other markets by using sugar cane to produce unique products rather than be limited to just sugar production.

For more Information Related to Sugar Cane in Barbados

The Barbados Crop Over Festival A festival associated with the Sugar Industry.
The Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum

For more Information on the Sugar Cane Industry
Contact The Barbados Agricultural Management CO. LTD. (BAMC)
Phone: (246) 425-0010
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

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