Another marker of our tropical “winter” is the commencement of the harvest. Sugar Cane is one of the most prevalent crops in the tropics. Sugar cane is also the largest crop by production in the world. Sugar cane is actually a member of the grass family.
During the cane harvesting season you will get to see cane being harvested. In the olden days the farmers used to cut the cane by hand. First they would burn the cane to remove a lot of the creatures that could have been dangerous to the cane cutters such as snakes. Burning cane was a spectacular sight as it was usually done at night. The cane cutters would then cut the cane into smaller pieces by hand. Some harvesters would cut up to 500kg per hour. It was very hard work. A lot of the sugar cane cutters back in the 1950’s were of Italian origin.
You will see around the Mossman and Daintree areas lots of roads with Italian sounding names. This is the reason why. Nowadays the cane is harvested mechanically.There are machines which cut the cane into little chunks. These harvesters feed the cut pieces of cane into big bins. The bins are either taken by truck to the Mossman Sugar Mill for refinement into table sugar, or by train. The sugar cane trains are very slow and travel on little rail lines around the area. The trains for most part are yellow and trundle along next to the main highway.
If you are driving up to Mt Molloy or the Tablelands during the harvest you may encounter trucks taking sugar cane grown on the tablelands down to the Mill in Mossman.
During cane harvesting season please take care at the level crossings. Even though the trains are slow they have a great deal of weight behind them and they are unable to stop quickly.