The Price of Sugar

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The Riff-Raff Element
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The Price of Sugar

Post: #249942 The Riff-Raff Element
Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:00 am

I picked this up on the BBC website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16007129

To summerise, large numbers of workers in the Central American sugar belt are developing kidney disease that is killing them. The cause is unclear - it may be due to exposure to chemicals used in the cultivation of the cane or it may be simply that they are paid by the weight cut and are working themselves to death.

In my local supermarket I could by a kilo of cheapo own brand white sugar for the princely sum of 58 centimes - call it 50p. Now, there is no indication on the packaging as to the origin of this contents, and I suspect it is probably European beet sugar, but it gives a clue to the international price of sugar as dictated by that benificent God-head, The Market.

During the era of slavery, campaigners drew attention to the plight of the slaves in the sugar fields by making sugar basins on which the price per pound of sugar was noted as a fraction of a slave's life. This almost seems appropriate today.

I know times are hard, but could I invite you to do two small things? Firstly, if you are a buyer of sugar that you try to buy the fairtrade stuff; second that you spend the price of a stamp and write a letter to a supermarket or a sugar refiner or to a large user of sugar like those nice chaps at Coca Cola to draw their attention to the situation and to ask them what their buying policy is.

Thanks.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #249991 demi
Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:12 pm

im planning on keeping bees for honey and possibly growing sugar beet to produce my own sugar so i wont have to buy any. :flower:

we're bacically aiming to fully produce everything we need ourselves, as much as is possible and cost effective.
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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250011 The Riff-Raff Element
Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:25 pm

demi wrote:im planning on keeping bees for honey and possibly growing sugar beet to produce my own sugar so i wont have to buy any. :flower:

we're bacically aiming to fully produce everything we need ourselves, as much as is possible and cost effective.


Excellent! So you could afford a stamp then?

Sugar from beet is not a simple process (well, not if you want a good yield) and involves a slew of potentially dangerous chemicals. If you can grow cane, the process is easier and a crude sugar called jaggery can be made quite simply through careful evapouration over a slow flame.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250029 Durgan
Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:53 pm

viewtopic.php?f=28&t=25010 The simple solution to the price of Sugar.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250031 Durgan
Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:12 pm

I use to work in the Dominican Republic. The island is one large sugar cane plantation. The cane is cut with machetes wielded by migrant workers imported from Haiti, since the less hardy Dominicans are not capable of the hard labour involved. One Doctor told me the black Haitians have very thick skin and can work in the heat without much damage in the hot sun.

First the cane fields are burned to remove the leaves, then the blacked cane is cut by hand, skinny women, children and men alike. It has to be amongst the most miserable harvesting jobs in the world. Pay is subsistence, and the immigrant workers are moved back to Haiti after the harvest, since Dominicans have little tolerance for real blacks even though everybody on the island has some Negro blood.

I haven't been to Brazil, but the same conditions exist and their much touted use of alcohol fuel for autos is developed from cheap ethanol harvested in the same manner, on the backs of poor human beings.

Sugar use to be what oil is today, until Napoleon got sugar beet production going due to a British blockade, then the market for cane sugar collapsed. It didn't end the slave trade because cotton needs many hands. Sugar should be red since it was produced with human blood and still is to some degree.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250052 demi
Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:23 pm

The Riff-Raff Element wrote:
demi wrote:im planning on keeping bees for honey and possibly growing sugar beet to produce my own sugar so i wont have to buy any. :flower:

we're bacically aiming to fully produce everything we need ourselves, as much as is possible and cost effective.


Excellent! So you could afford a stamp then?

Sugar from beet is not a simple process (well, not if you want a good yield) and involves a slew of potentially dangerous chemicals. If you can grow cane, the process is easier and a crude sugar called jaggery can be made quite simply through careful evapouration over a slow flame.



yes i can afford a stamp, but possibly an email would be easier :icon_smile:

i was reading about getting suagr from sugar beet and from what iv read you just wash it, cut it up and boil it in water then take out the beets and boil the water until it crystalizes. im not aware of any chemicals. although i have not spent too long researching about it. maybe when they do it in factories the add chemicals?
i would be up for growing sugar cane if that is easier. can you feed the left overs of sugar cane to the animals like you can with beets?
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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250067 The Riff-Raff Element
Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:28 pm

Refining beet sugar is slighly problematic because of the other - naturally occuring - chemicals that are in the mash with the sucrose that inhibit the crystalisation. This is overcome by first adding calcium hydroxide ("milk of lime") to precipitate oxalates, sulphates and so on as the insoluble calcium salts, than adding carbon dioxide to clear any surplus calacium. Making milk of lime is easy, but does involve calicum oxide, which is nasty.

After that, the filtered liquor is treated first with sulphuric acid then sodium carbonate to bring the pH back up. Then it can be evapoured. A sort of brown sludge is obtained, which is almost sugar but tastes rather unpleasent, so it is centrifuged to get the sugar crystals clear. The "molassas" left over can be added to animal feed, but is pretty vile stuff otherwise;

Cane juice refining for jaggery is much easier.

I'd have thought you'd have the temperature in Macedonia, but you might have to specially construct a water-retaining bed for cultivation. I'd imagine goats would relish the leftovers.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250070 demi
Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:06 pm

water-retaining beds. is sugar cane grown like rice in paddy fields?
i should go research this, i dont know anything about sugar cane.
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'If you just close your eyes and block your ears, to the acumulated knowlage of the last 2000 years,
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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250075 The Riff-Raff Element
Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:29 pm

We're swerving way off topic, still...

Not paddy fields as such, but the canes need good, water retentive soil that doesn't dry out. I've only done it for fun in pots and I added water retentive gel to help, but beds with lots of organic matter and a heavy mulch would do the same I'd say. Otherwise it's a fairly undemanding crop. The Moors grew sugar cane all around the Med, so it is a crop with some history in the region. Beet is more a cool climate crop: I think frost is needed to develop the sugar content.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250076 demi
Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:11 pm

iv its grown round the mediterainian then we'll be able to grow it for sure. although we go months in the summer without rain so if it need lots of water that might be an issue.
up in the mountains where we are we also have very cold winters. it allways goes under -20 at some point during the winter, but if its clear skys during the day it can get up to 20 degrees. we've been sitting on the balconey in the sun in january with t-shirts on when theres snow on the ground! thats what i love about macedonia, much better than scotland thats for sure!
anyway, so there is frost for the sugar beet too.

how much sugar do you get out each cane? like how much do you think id need to plant to get a years supply, if we go though about 1/2kg of sugar a week?
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'If you just close your eyes and block your ears, to the acumulated knowlage of the last 2000 years,
then morally guess what your off the hook, and thank Christ you only have to read one book'

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250111 The Riff-Raff Element
Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:25 am

Hmm... if you get -20°C that will probably kill the rhizome, though I suppose you could lift them during the winter after harvest and replant in spring. You'd need to check that. There's always a polytunnel option.

I think in ideal conditions that cane yields about 10% jaggery by weight of cane and the cane grows about 6-8kg per m2, so between 600 and 800 g per m2.

There should be quite a bit on line, though you may have to wade through a lot of puff to find the useful stuff.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250120 Zech
Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:18 pm

I've been thinking about growing sugar beet too - not much chance of growing cane here in Wales! I've heard that the big suppliers may be willing to sell small quantities, if asked nicely, so I might try that. I was thinking of leaving it as syrup rather than trying to get it to the crystal stage (I'm sure I'd burn it!). I'm assuming that would still be good for jam and wine making. Would that work?
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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250130 demi
Sun Dec 18, 2011 1:20 pm

how long does the sugar cane take to grow to harvest it?
is it possible to take cuttings and pot them up inside over the winter then plant outside once the weathers better?

i plan on doing this with sweet potatoes.
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'If you just close your eyes and block your ears, to the acumulated knowlage of the last 2000 years,
then morally guess what your off the hook, and thank Christ you only have to read one book'

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250510 The Riff-Raff Element
Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:30 am

I don't know if the syrup would work or not - I'll do some thinking.

Cane is an annual harvest and propagation is normally from cuttings.

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Re: The Price of Sugar

Post: #250513 MKG
Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:43 am

I can help a little. The raw syrup would certainly be fermentable. However, only the sucrose content would be used. All of the impurities would remain in the wine, and I have no idea what effect they may have. So you could get drunk, but you may have to screw up your face while you're doing it.

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EDIT: That's assuming, of course, that those impurities do not contain a yeast inhibitor.
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