Category Archives: Brazil

History of Cane Sugar


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sweetmeats, confectionaries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc. use sugar for sweetening.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of sugar from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Sugarcane

Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet are endowed with sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

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Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

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Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugar cane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

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The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

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Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies, their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar was used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there Arabs carried the knowledge and love for sugar. The Arabs perfected sugar refinement made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

From there sugar travelled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar they returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugar cane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

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Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried the cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugar cane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

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François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

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In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

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William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

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William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)

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Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12

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Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12

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Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 

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FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – Third Place and Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

France vs Germany

FULL-TIME
0-1

France

Germany

Estadio do Maracanã
Rio De Janeiro


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Brazil vs Colombia

FULL-TIME
2-1

BrazilColombia

Estadio Castelão
Fortaleza

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Argentina vs Belgium

FULL-TIME
1-0

Argentina Belgium

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Netherlands won on Penalties (4-3)Netherlands Costa Rica

Arena Fonte Nova
Salvador


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Brazil vs Germany

FULL-TIME
1-7

Germany

Brazil

Estadio Mineirão
Belo Horizonte


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Netherlands vs Argentina

 Argentina won on Penalties (2-4)

Netherlands

Argentina

Arena de São Paulo
São Paulo 


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Brazil vs Netherlands

Brazil

Netherlands

Estadio Nacional
Brasília


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã
Brasilia

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – Semi-Finals, Third Place and Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

France vs Germany

FULL-TIME
0-1

France

Germany

Estadio do Maracanã
Rio De Janeiro


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Brazil vs Colombia

FULL-TIME
2-1

BrazilColombia

Estadio Castelão
Fortaleza

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Argentina vs Belgium

FULL-TIME
1-0

Argentina Belgium

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Netherlands won on Penalties (4-3)Netherlands Costa Rica

Arena Fonte Nova
Salvador


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Brazil vs Germany

Germany

Brazil

Estadio Mineirão
Belo Horizonte


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Netherlands vs Argentina

Netherlands

Argentina

Arena de São Paulo
São Paulo 


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Loser Match 61 vs Loser Match 62

Estadio Nacional
Brasília


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã
Brasilia

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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Hurry Curry to Brazil for Bangladeshi FIFA Fans


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Mustafa Azim, a director of Imperial Air Salvage, is a Bangladeshi. When Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster The Edge of Tomorrow was being shot at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, the Imperial Air Salvage provided planes to be blown up on the set.

Azim and a couple of his friends have tickets for the World Cup final. Many of his football crazy friends from Bangladesh are already in Brazil. Since curry, rice, and fish are the main items in their regular diet, they were disappointed when they realized that there are no Indian restaurants in Brazil and intimated him.

Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)
Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)

So, Azim approached Mohammed Wahid, the owner of Chilcha, an Award Winning Indian Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing, West Sussex, to arrange a 12-person delivery to Brazil of some of their favorite dishes. “Chilcha” is the Bengali word for happiness.

Azim was already aware of Wahid’s delicious, appetizing cooking when the latter provided catering on the set of The Edge of Tomorrow at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden.

Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)
Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)

Wahid was surprised at first and agreed to cater to him.

Mustafa Azim, will fly into Shoreham Airport on a chartered plane to collect the dishes. He will then head to an airport near Heathrow, before boarding a commercial plane to take him and the food to Brazil.

The overall cost of the delivery is £4200: £1200 for the curry, £1800 for the flight to Brazil, £1000 for a chartered flight to Shoreham to collect the takeaway, £100 landing and parking charges, and £100 for the taxi to the hotel.

 

FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – From Quarter-Finals To Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

France vs Germany

France

Germany

Estadio do Maracanã
Rio De Janeiro


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Brazil vs Colombia

BrazilColombia

Estadio Castelão
Fortaleza

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Argentina vs Belgium

Argentina Belgium

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Netherlands Costa Rica

Arena Fonte Nova
Salvador


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Winner Match 57 vs Winner Match 58

Estadio Mineirão
Belo Horizonte


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Winner Match 59 vs Winner Match 60

Arena de Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo 


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Loser Match 61 vs Loser Match 62

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã
Brasilia

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – From Round of 16 To Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


ROUND OF 16


SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #49
Brazil vs Chile

Brazil

Chile

Estadio Mineirão


SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #50
Colombia
vs Uruguay

ColombiaUruguay

Estadio do Maracanã

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #51
Netherlands
vs Mexico

Mexico

Netherlands

Estadio Castelão


MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Sunday)

15:00 EST (Sunday)

17:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #52
Costa Rica
vs Greece

GreeceCosta Rica

 

Arena Pernambuco

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #53
France
vs Nigeria

FranceNigeria

Nacional


TUESDAY, JULY 1, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Monday)

15:00 EST (Monday)

17:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #54
Germany
vs Algeria

Algeria

Germany

Estadio Beira-Rio

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #55
Argentina
vs Switzerland

Argentina

Switzerland

Arena Corinthians


WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #56
Belgium vs United States

Belgium

USA

Arena Fonte Nova


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

Winner Match 53 vs Winner Match 54

Estadio do sMaracanã


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Winner Match 49 vs Winner Match 50

Estadio Castelão

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Winner Match 55 vs Winner Match 56

Nacional


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Winner Match 51 vs Winner Match 52

Arena Fonte Nova


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Winner Match 57 vs Winner Match 58

Estadio Mineirão


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Winner Match 59 vs Winner Match 60

Arena Corinthians


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Loser Match 61 vs Loser Match 62

Nacional


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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Sugar – Part 1: History of Cane sugar


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sweetmeats, confectionaries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc. use sugar for sweetening.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر  shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of sugar from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Sugarcane

Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet have sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

.

Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

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Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugar cane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

.

The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

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Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies, their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar is used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science. From there sugar travelled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there the Arabs carried the knowledge and love of sugar, perfected sugar refinement and made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French Crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar the Crusaders returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugar cane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

.

Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

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Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried the cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugar cane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

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François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

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In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

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William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

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William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)

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Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12

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Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12

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Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 

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Next → Sugar – Part 2: The Different Avatars of Sugar

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