Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical parts of South and Southeast Asia. The earliest known production of crystalline sugar began in northern India. Until the advent of large-scale sugar beet production in the latter part of the 19th century, sugarcane, and the largely unrefined raw sugar derived therefrom, was the primary source of income for many British, French, Spanish, and Dutch colonies throughout the tropical and sub-tropical zones in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Later, as sugar prices fell, only the lowest cost producers, such as Cuba and Brazil, would be able to continue to thrive. The history of sugarcane in the 20th century has been one of sugarcane’s constant competition with (often subsidized) beet sugar, along with sugar cane producers in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific securing preferential access to developed markets.
Please refer to the Sugar Cane PDF for a detailed discussion of the sugarcane industry.