What Drove the Sugar Trade: Analytical Essay

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Although over 130 countries produce sugar or sugarcane globally, ten countries dominate the production and trade of sugar. These countries include Brazil, India, China, Thailand, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States, etc. These countries are also some of the world’s top consumers of the crop. Today, sugar is cultivated in countries with warmer climates, and in the tropic and sub-tropic regions which are generally located near the equator. In Australia, around 95 percent of sugar is grown in Queensland about the remaining percentage is grown in northern New South Wales. Sugar is grown along the coastline between Mosman, Queensland, and Grafton, in NSW. Most of the sugarcane is grown on the coastlines as they experience high rainfall and provide easy ways to implement irrigation technology. Weather and climate-related events, for example, temperature, precipitation, and other extreme weather disasters are the key factors that influence sugarcane production worldwide, especially in several third-world nations. These weather fluctuations also bring about indirect effects, affecting the quality of the soil, the amount of sunlight the sugar crops are given, etc. The sugarcane yields have also fluctuated with climate events that occur globally and locally, such as droughts and cyclones. The locations in which sugar can be farmed are limited by climate, reliable water sources, and the proximity to processing mills. This generally limits production to tropical climates along coastal areas, as shown in Source B. Sugarcane must also be grown near a sugar mill as the juice in the stalk of the cane will start to evaporate after sixteen hours, reducing the yield and price paid to the farmer.

Technological Method

Sugar cane grows for 12 to 16 months before being harvested, standing two to four meters high. Queensland’s sugar cane is harvested by self-propelled harvesting machines, which can be self-owned by the farmer or owned by several farmers. There are specifically two different methods to harvest the sugar crop. In some areas, it is possible to harvest the cane green. The leafy stalks of the sugar cane form an organic mulch that contains moisture reduces weed germination and prevents soil erosion. In other cane-growing areas, the sugar cane is burnt to remove all excess matter which makes harvesting and milling difficult, such as weeds or leaves. Harvesting also requires a mechanical cane harvester and haul-out tractors.

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Harvesting the cane green is a productive way of farming the sugar crop. The farmers allow the stalks of the sugarcane to fall to the ground and act as “a protective trash blanket”. This is displayed in Source C. This blanket, as an organic mulch, significantly diminishes the level of soil erosion, minimizes weed germination, and maintains the soil’s nutrition for more productive crop growth. Fifty percent of the sugar crop, in Australia, is now harvested green as it provides a healthier alternative. It doesn’t affect the environment, unlike the “burning” farming method. The cane is cut green and the leaf matter is thrown onto the farm. This technological farming method helps improve the growth and harvesting of the crop through increased crop yields, prevention of weeds and pests, and distribution the nutrients evenly throughout the soil. The green cane method allows the crops to grow faster in certain areas, diminishes the pests that hurt the production of the crop, and allows the nutrients from the sugarcane to be distributed to the soil, which overall increases its quality.

There are also a few overall disadvantages of the green cane harvesting method. Common negative effects of green cane harvesting include lower soil temperatures which result in short-term yield losses, delayed growth of crops, and severe frost damage in young crops. The ‘trash blanket’ also affects the fertilizer application, where only certain chemicals can be used in order for full productivity. However, green cane harvesting does not negatively impact the environment, unlike burn harvesting where pollutants are released into the environment.

Environmental and Ecological Factors

The cultivation and farming of sugar have an environmental impact through habitat loss, overuse of water resources, heavy use of agriculturally modified chemicals, runoff of polluted effluent into local streams/rivers, and air pollution. These effects lead to land, wildlife, and soil degradation. Sugarcane is currently grown in hilly areas, which leads to high rates of soil erosion resulting from the increased rates of water runoff on sloping land. This happens quickly. Therefore, the farming of sugar has a negative impact on the environment. These sediments that come from polluted effluent even have ended up in the Great Barrier Reef. The fertilizers used on the soil have an impact on the sea life of the Reef, threatening water quality. This also occurs in other freshwater systems. Sugarcane farming has also fuelled deforestation. However, the environment is also benefitting from the growth of sugar. As aforementioned, sugar helps the quality of the soil by preserving the nutrients that increase crop productivity.

Sugarcane production also heavily depends on the environment it is grown in. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere can have an impact on the speed of photosynthesis. It will greatly increase the yield by allowing crops to grow faster. The environment’s climate also affects the growth of sugar. If the environment has a sudden increase in temperature, due to climate change, this will affect the yield. If there is a sudden decrease in temperature, the soil and air temperature will drop, and young shoots suffer frost damage, which can be permanent. When there is a flood, the crop yields will be broken down earlier, affecting the crop yields by having to restart the process of growth. The soil will also have more water than it needs, making the soil become waterlogged. The crop will suffer from a lack of oxygen, which leads to the death of the plant. It could also dramatically stunt growth. Droughts will also affect crop yield as when there is a drought, irrigated water will become scarce and sugar crops will die out. The soil moisture will also be at a critically low level.

When sugar is farmed in different places, the environment of that certain place does have an effect on how sugar is farmed, through various aspects. The topography of the place will affect sugar production, as the irrigation system will have to be adjusted in a way to deposit the runoff somewhere. The amount of rainfall that occurs in that area will affect the way the crop is farmed as farmers will need to take precautions in case of the two extremes, drought or flood. If that area’s temperature is too high, then farmers will need to build shade structures, or if it is too low, build indoor greenhouses so they can control the temperatures. If the water quality in that specific area is too dirty, then the farmers will have to source water from elsewhere or implement a freshwater desalination plant in order to purify the water and grow their crop yields. This also applies if the water is readily available as they will have to adjust their irrigation systems if they are inland or rely solely on rainwater, which is often fickle. The altitude of the place will also matter as the harvesters will have to figure out a safe way to transport their water sources.

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What Drove the Sugar Trade: Analytical Essay. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-drove-the-sugar-trade-analytical-essay/
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What Drove the Sugar Trade: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-drove-the-sugar-trade-analytical-essay/> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
What Drove the Sugar Trade: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-drove-the-sugar-trade-analytical-essay/
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