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Barbados Sugar
"Muscovado Sugar of Barbados"

Produced from sugar cane in Barbados, Barbados sugar is more commonly known as Muscovado sugar or Moist sugar.  This sugar in Barbados is a dark brown sugar that is very moist with a uniquely strong molasses taste.  

The reason our sugar has this strong molasses taste is because it is unrefined and produced from the naturally sweet sugar cane juice of the sugar cane.  Another unique feature our sugar is its course grain and sticky sugar crystals.

Since Barbados sugar is unrefined it is also well known for its high mineral and vitamin content.  This makes it a great supplement to your diet and a great replacement to refined white sugar.

Sugar Plantations in Barbados

Vacation in Barbados

Sugar Plantation in BarbadosTobacco and cotton were once the main agricultural crops in Barbados before Dutch merchants introduced sugar cane to Barbadian planters in the mid 1600s. 

At this time in the history of Barbados the tobacco industry was depressed and the island was in need of a new source of income.  Dutchman Pieter Blower then brought sugar cane to the island from Brazil and the crop proved to be the island's most lucrative cash crop.

As the sugar export industry grew on this island during the 1600s, so did the number of enormous sugar plantations.  These sugar plantations were owned by wealthy landowners and was known as the "plantocracy" .  In order to make room for these Barbados sugar plantations mass deforestation took place in 1640. 

By the early 1800s African slavery in Barbados had reached an all time high with almost 400,000 slaves. These slaves worked the sugar plantations in Barbados growing sugar cane, grinding it, extracting the sugar juice and processing it, ready to be shipped as raw sugar to Britain. 

There were once several hundred sugar plantations on the island but today there are few still in operation. Those that are no longer producing sugar often come up for sale, with the plantation houses making desirable residences.

Sugar Cultivation in Barbados

Vacation in Barbados

Sugar Cane Cuttings in BarbadosThe change from cultivating tobacco and cotton to the cultivation of sugar, proved to be a good move for the economy of Barbados. The crop thrived in the environmental conditions present in Barbados and produced up to 20kg for every metre planted. 

Barbados sugar cane grows from cuttings rather than seeds and can be harvested several times once it has been planted, although each successive crop will yield less sugar. 

Sugar cane in Babrados is sometimes harvested by hand. The fields are set on fire to allow the leaves to be burnt away and the stalks and roots exposed. The harvester will then cut the stalks with a knife or machette and pile them into large stacks.  The stalks are finally loaded on to trucks and taken to the sugar cane factories for processing.

The advantages to this method of harvesting sugar cane in Barbados are its lower cost and reduced damage to the roots of the crop.  However this method obviously takes quite some time.

Sugar cane in Barbados is therefore more commonly harvested through the use of machinery.  A sugar cane harvesting machine is used to cut the cane stalks and separate them from their leaves.  These harvesters automatically shoot the cut sugar cane stalks into the back of loading trucks.

Burning Sugar Cane for Harvesting in BarbadosThe disadvantage to this automated process is that the harvesting machines can cause more damage to the sugar canes causing depletion of the sugar content. This means that the canes harvested by this means need to be processed as quickly as possible so as to avoid the decaying process.   

About 90% of the sugar cane in Barbados is harvested through the use of machinery with the remaining 10% done manually.

Production and Exportation of Barbados Sugar

Vacation in Barbados

Barbados Sugar MillOnce the sugar cane stalks arrive at the sugar factories from the fields by truck, they are grinded to extract the sugary sweet juice and then processed into Barbados sugar.  

Wind-powered sugar mills, like the Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill in the parish of St.Andrew, were used to grind the sugar cane stalks.  There are still many sugar mills spread throughout the island from old sugar plantations however the Morgan Lewis Mill remains one of the only restored mills on the island.  

During your Barbados vacation you can visit this old sugar mill to view an exhibit of old mill equipment and learn more about how these sugar mills work.

Sugar production and exportation used to be the main industry in Barbados and was at its peak in the 16th and 17th century.  However, Barbados is no longer as dependent on sugar production with the abolition of slavery and boom of tourism on the island.  

This has lead to there now only being 2 Barbados sugar factories remaining operational on the island, whereas there used to be 26.  The two remaining sugar factories are Andrews sugar factory in the parish of St.Joseph and Portvale sugar factory in the parish of St.James. 

The reasons behind the decline in sugar production on the island also include the lack of mechanisation, as Barbados plantations were too small to properly benefit from mechanisation, as well as increased competition from more efficient producers such as Australia and Brazil.  Brazil even has sugar plantations larger than this entire island!

The Sugar Industry in BarbadosThe sugar industry in Barbados is currently very much supported by an agreement between Barbados and the European Union to export several thousand tons of sugar annually at preferential prices. The United Kingdom is still one of the most important export markets for Barbados brown sugar with our sugar widely available and used through out the UK.  There is also a similar agreement in place with the USA but for a much smaller quantity. However, these quotas are reducing over time. 

In recent years, the government has looked at ways to protect the Barbados sugar export industry, one of which is the production and sale of premium "gourmet" sugars. This has lead to the production and branding of a premium Barbados sugar brand known as Plantation Reserve. This premium sugar brand is produced by the Barbados sugar industry and marketed and exported through The West Indies Sugar & Trading Company Ltd, also known as Wistco.   This strategy has been quite successful, with a number of premium Barbadian sugars available in many UK supermarket chains.  Plantation Reserve Sugar is also used at many of Barbados' high end restaurants as a gourmet sugar to enhance the flavour of many dishes.

Molasses Production in Barbados

Vacation in Barbados

Barbados MolassesBarbados Molasses is made from the sugar juice left behind after the sugar has been made. It can be used as a syrup as well as the basis for producing rum. 

The molasses production industry in Barbados has declined some what as a result of less sugar production. This decline means that the rum producers now have to import around half of what they need to produce rum.


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