Bittersweet – time to get ready for the sugar cane harvesting season
As the start of the sugar cane burning season approaches in Southern Africa, many residents are bracing themselves for what has become known as ‘black snow.’ This term refers to the thick, black smoke that fills the air as sugar cane fields are burned to prepare for harvest.
Sugar cane is a major crop in many countries in Southern Africa, including South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. It is used to produce sugar, molasses, and ethanol, among other things. However, before the cane can be harvested, it must first be burned to remove the outer leaves and make it easier to cut.
While this process is necessary for the sugar cane industry, it can have some negative effects on the environment and human health. The burning of sugar cane releases large amounts of smoke and particulate matter into the air, which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues for people living nearby.
In addition, the smoke can reduce visibility on the roads, making driving more dangerous. The particulate matter can also settle on crops and in water sources, potentially contaminating them and reducing their quality.
To address these concerns, some countries in Southern Africa have implemented regulations on sugar cane burning. For example, in South Africa, farmers are required to obtain permits for burning and are only allowed to burn during certain times of the day to minimise the impact on air quality. In Mozambique, there are regulations requiring farmers to use alternative methods of removing the outer leaves of the cane, such as mechanical cutting.
Unitrans, a leading logistics and supply chain management company, has played a vital role in the sugar cane farming industry in southern Africa. With decades of experience in the sector, Unitrans has developed a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by sugar cane farmers and has provided customised solutions to meet their needs. From transporting heavy machinery and equipment to delivering harvested sugar cane to processing plants, Unitrans’ efficient and reliable services have helped sugar cane farmers optimise their operations and increase their yields.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous farming operations continue to ignore these regulations as they are not always enforced effectively. As such, it is important for governments, farmers, and industry leaders to work together to find sustainable solutions that balance the needs of the sugar cane industry with the health and well-being of the surrounding communities.
One possible solution is to invest in alternative methods of preparing sugar cane for harvest, such as mechanical cutting or using natural methods like composting to remove the outer leaves. These methods may require more upfront investment, but they can reduce the negative impact of sugar cane burning on the environment and human health in the long run. At Unitrans, we continue to invest in research into farming more sustainably.
With this commitment to sustainability, Unitrans has also implemented environmentally-friendly practices in its operations, such as reducing carbon emissions and promoting responsible water usage, to support the long-term viability of the sugar cane farming industry in the region.
Learn more about our sugar cane farming practices, here
Commercial agriculture is a critical component of the global food system, and it is estimated that by 2050, the world’s population will reach 9.7 billion, requiring a 70% increase in global food production. With this increasing demand for food, the need for water resources in agriculture is also set to rise, and water management will become more critical than ever.