Sugarcane is grown along the east coast of Australia, from northern New South Wales through to far north Queensland.

Sugarcane grows best in warm weather, fertile soil and 1,500mm or so of rainfall each year, which the north-eastern parts of Australia offers.

Sugarcane is unique in that it is planted from pieces of sugar cane stalk about 300 mm long – called setts – and does not require replanting after harvest. Typically, planting occurs between August and October using a billet planter that buries the setts below the soil surface. Fertiliser is added and weeds controlled for the next three to four months as the new plant grows, forming what is called a stool of cane that has a number of sugarcane stalks growing from it.

The sugar cane grows for 12 to 18 months and reaches up to four metres tall before being mechanically harvested between June and December. After harvesting, the stool grows new shoots to produce a “ratoon” crop. Two or three ratoon crops can be grown before the sugar cane has to be replanted.

Australia boasts a highly efficient, mechanical harvesting system, with a fleet of modern harvesters and in-field transporters, supported by a just-in-time supply program that optimises the hauling of cane by road to the mill with the minimum number of trucks.

In NSW, the sugarcane is burned to reduce the amount of trash or leaf matter before harvest. Burning of sugarcane is a sensitive topic, so we have created a dedicated document The Burning Question.

The soils in Australia’s cane farming regions are rich and fertile. As landowners look for ways to diversify, alternate agricultural pursuits such as macadamias, horticulture and livestock are among the mix of productive farming.

Harvested sugarcane is processed at the nearest sugar mill. In NSW, there are three sugar mills – Condong, Broadwater and Harwood.

Sugarcane is put through a milling process where its crushed to extract the liquid, then filtered to extract impurities and sent to the pan boilers to crystalise. From there, it is placed in a centrifugal to extract molasses leaving the raw sugar which is sent to a dryer and then on to refining or raw sugar storage.

Raw sugar is stored in a purpose-built shed co-located at the Harwood mill that can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of sugar.

In NSW, food-grade raw sugar is made at the Condong sugar mill and packed at the nearby Murwillumbah packing plant.

Sunshine Sugar is sold to a range of customers across Australia. Products are sold for retail sales in 1kg, 2kg and 3kg packs through to industrial and bulk quantities used in food and beverage manufacturing.

Sucrose is the chemical name for sugar, the simple carbohydrate produced naturally in all plants.

Sugar is naturally white. When the sugar is initially extracted from the plant, it has a golden colour because of the non-sugar materials attached to and within the sugar crystals. These include plant fibres and molasses that are washed from the sugar crystal during refining.

Sugar is a special ingredient that provides much more than just sweetness. Sugar has many functional properties that range from enhancing flavour and aroma, retaining moisture, adding bulk, giving texture, balancing acidity and preventing spoilage.

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body, with glucose being essential to the function of the central nervous system. Sugar has been incorporated in the diets of humans throughout all of time, and like all foods should be consumed in moderation and accompanied by moderate exercise.