Sugar Cane

Any visitor to the far north of Queensland, or even NSW, cannot help but notice the sugar cane. This warm coastal land has been growing sugar since it was first settled by Westerners, at first using Pacific Islander and Indigenous Australian labourers, but now highly mechanised. The smell of sugar hangs over the towns near the sugar mill, a heavy sweetish molasses kind of smell, spread by the constant smoke belching from the tall chimney stacks.

Cane trains are shunted into the mill in a constant flow, keeping the production line moving. Their narrow gauge tracks line the roads, with warning signs frequently placed along the verges.

In the fields sugar cane appears at every stage of growth from newly planted to fully mature. I cannot help but imagine the rainforest that once stood where the cane grows in its neat machine friendly rows.

Farmers are busy meeting their commitments to the mill. Empty cane carriages stand waiting to be filled, harvesters bustle along the fields, spraying chaff and dust into the air.


As we left the coast and began the long climb up to the tablelands I said “Bye Bye Cane” but it turned out there was still more cane on the mountainside, and on the Atherton Tableland. We saw this harvester just near the base of the mountain range.

At least the birds are finding some goodness here … no doubt laden with superphosphate and other fertilisers that also find their way into waterways and out into the Great Barrier Reef where nutrients from farming and poisons from mining are gradually killing off all the life.

One fellow traveller commented to us on the damage sugar does to human health, and the damage our farming practises are doing to the Reef, and thought we might be better off without sugar altogether. What do you think?


17 thoughts on “Sugar Cane

  1. Given that it’s becoming less and less economical to farm it, perhaps its economics that will wean us off the white poison? There are still a few farmers around here growing cane but it looks more like a hobby than a livelihood now the mill at Nambour is closed and the little cane trains gone.

  2. Thanks for the view into the area north of Queensland and further, and great pictures. I like the thought of the current benefit of sugar in our diet, and economy. It may in fact be of limited demand. Marty from the east coast, USA

  3. Wonderful photos. Sugar cane is grown in four American states, but a lot of sugar is from sugar beets. Of course, the American diet is ridiculously infused with sugar in all forms. It really is alarming, but with all that is known about the dangers of sugar, diets don’t seem to change much.

    • Put it all down to big business …. they know what they are doing but prefer profits to the greater good … our trip is nearly finished, home in a few days 🙂

  4. The pictures look so iconically N QLD and Australian – it’s a shame about the back story – it’s always been ablout money. Big Business is the answer… grow more, produce it cheaply using at one time cheap labour, now pesticides, fertiliser and chemicals… push for greater markets… Same thing is happening with corn in the US and high corn fructose syrup produced even more cheaply but at a great environmental cost is replacing sugar as an ingredient, and reputed to be the real devil of the health issues.

  5. I find the cane train fascinating. Sort of morbidly so. Big agri-business is a scary business. And maybe your fellow traveller is right we would all in fact be better off without it – but realistically speaking that won’t happen so maybe we need to look at reducing consumption or looking for ways to grow more organically….

let's chat about this ...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s