The Hong Kong sugarcane industry, 1934

IDJ has sent the following article, published in 1934, which though he doesn’t mention its source I think may come from an edition of the Hong Kong Naturalist.

HF: I have retyped the original newspaper article to aid clarity and searches.

Thanks to SCT for proofreading the retyped copy of the article and to Yannis Baritakis for enlarging the image below from the original article.

Sugar Industry Tuen Mun 1934

Local Sugar Industry

After the Christmas festivities it is a generally accepted custom to go for a good walk or climb on Boxing Day or on the next day. We paid a visit to the low hills and secluded valleys just beyond Castle Peak and before the Ping Shan district. Short after the turning off from the main road to Castle Peak there is another path which first crosses a stream by means of a concrete bridge and is then flanked on the north by a row of clumps of bamboo. This path led us to an extensive orchard of lychee and other fruit trees and later to a district in which sugar cane was the principal crop.

The cutting of the cane was in progress and we were interested to see a juice-extracting plant in operation. The cane after it had been cut by women was stripped of its lower leaves. The tops were cut off and used as fodder for the oxen, the young stems, roughly foot lengths, below the tops were reserved to be used later as cuttings for propagation, or so it appeared. The main stems were fed into the mill. The mill was similar to the sketch published on p. 193 in the last issue of Hong Kong Naturalist; it consisted of a stone trough in which two cylindrical stones operated on each other by means of wooden cogs. One of these stone drums was rotated by means of two yoke of oxen, which were harnessed to each end of a horizontal bar which passed through a vertical wooden beam fixed into the centre of the drum. The rotation of this stone in an anti-clockwise direction caused the other stone by means of the wooden cogs to move clockwise. The cane was fed through the mill at one side and the juice which was squeezed out flowed along a groove in the trough into a wooden tub. This extraction took place under a cone shaped roof thatched apparently with sugar cane leaves. The canes, deprived of their juice, were stacked in the open to be used later for fuel.

Adjoining this hut was the boiling plant. Two large metal bowls filled with sap were boiling merrily, heat being supplied by a fire underneath. One man was kept occupied stoking with bundles of dried grass and scrub, another was employed stirring and removing scum from the bowls. Near the bowls was a large flat evaporating trough into which the concentrated juice was ladled and in which crystalisation of the sugar took place. The brown sugar looking like fudge was cut into squares, transferred to baskets, weighed and, so it appeared to us, sold on the spot to customers. There are not many such sugar extracting plants in the Colony and we were naturally interested to see this native industry in full swing.

This article was first posted on 12th April 2022.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Taikoo Sugar Refinery
  2. The China Sugar Refinery Company (previously Wahee, Smith & Co)
  3. The Aerial Ropeway (1891-1932) and Sanitarium (1893-1932) of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery
  4. The origins of Wahee, Smith & Co. (later China Sugar Refinery.)
  5. Dr Ferdinand Korn, Tai Koo Sugar and a case of the ‘British disease’?
  6. Sugar Street 糖街, Causeway Bay – origins of the name – silver into sugar or vice versa!
  7. Taikoo Sugar Refinery – Bullivant’s Ropeway for transporting coal from ship to shore
  8. Bullivant & Co, Millwall London, supplier of Taikoo Sugar Refinery’s aerial ropeway cables – additional information

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