Sugarcane – 10 things you’ve always wanted to ask

Sugarcane – 10 things you’ve always wanted to ask

Sugar is a staple ingredient in homes worldwide. Delicious in baked goods or stirred into hot tea, life would be a lot less sweet without it – but how much do you know about sugarcane, the plant it comes from? We’ve put together the answers to some of the most asked sugarcane questions.

1. Is sugarcane a vegetable?

No, it’s actually a perennial grass with thick stalks full of precious sucrose, which is the main component of sugar. It regrows after each harvest and provides a crop for many years before it needs to be replanted.

2. What is sugarcane used for?

Well, sugar of course! But it’s a versatile crop and can also be used to create byproducts such as molasses for biofuel, cattle feed, plus bagasse for electricity production and briquettes, which we sell locally. The briquettes also power the Transmara Sugar factory. Filter cake is also used as fertiliser in the sugarcane fields for soil amendment.

3. Can you eat sugarcane raw?

Yes! Cut into segments, peel off the outer layer and chew on the interior of the cane – remember to spit the fibrous material out once you’ve extracted all the sweetness. It can also be squeezed to produce a nice and refreshing sugarcane juice.

4. How is sugarcane grown?

It’s grown in large cane fields, using 40cm sections of mature stalks (it’s possible to grow from seed, but this isn’t the preferred method). Chopped cane stalks (cane setts) are placed in furrows, fertilized, covered and allowed to germinate. Because of the unique climate at Transmara, sugarcane can be planted throughout the year, except in July which is considered to be a drier month.

5. How is sugarcane harvested?

At Transmara Sugar, cane stalks are harvested manually with all leaves and the tops removed. The cleaned stalks are then stacked and transported by road to the sugar mill. The harvesting season starts in May and continues for 11 months until factory closure in April when we do our annual factory maintenance.

6. How much sugarcane is needed to make sugar?

This depends on the sucrose content in the sugarcane and is influenced by many factors, including agroclimatic conditions, cane age, variety and infield management. At Transmara, one ton of sugarcane produces approximately 100kgs of processed sugar.

7. How long does sugarcane take to grow?

Due to the cooler climatic conditions at Transmara, it takes at least 22-24 months to produce mature sugarcane ready for harvest. In warmer tropical conditions, the cycle is closer to 12 months.

8. What’s sugarcane juice good for?

It’s a delicious drink that can be enjoyed on its own, as part of a cocktail or used as an ingredient in cooking.

9. Where is Transmara Sugar grown?

We only choose to use sugarcane grown right here in Kenya. The Transmara region offers plenty of rainfall to encourage the sugarcane to grow and we always work with local farmers, because we want to celebrate a crop grown in Kenya, rather than imported. The sugarcane delivered to the Transmara sugar mill is grown on very fertile soils on well-drained slopes in the upper lands, with sufficient rainfall in the Narok county of Southwest Kenya.

10. How is sugarcane processed?

Once the sugarcane crop is ready, we transport it to our factory for milling. This means crushing the sugarcane to remove the juice and turning the syrup into sugar crystals. We do this 24 hours a day for over 300 days a year! These are dried and quality-checked before being packaged in our Mara Sugar packets. Our brown, white and light sugar is then delivered to retail outlets all across Kenya.

Find out more about Mara Sugar.