2015年1月13日 星期二

Sugarcane in Taiwan

Half-sized locomotive for pulling sugarcane harvests
This locomotive was known as a Half-sized engine五分車, a standard equipment with a rail gauge of 76.2 cm (half of the international standard, 143.5 cm, hence the name). Taiwan Sugar Corp had a fleet of them servicing the sugarcane fields in southern Taiwan:

五分車 in action

Sugarcane sugar from Taiwan was well known to the Japanese since the Ming-Cheng era (1661-1683) or even earlier during the Dutch East India Co rule. It was a major trade commodity. When Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing in 1895, the Japanese wasted no time at all and quickly built up a modernized sugar industry. By 1910s, sugar factories supplied by surrounding sugarcane fields were in full swing. In 1925, a new species of sugarcane was introduced into Taiwan which had vastly increased the output. By 1941, daily processing of sugarcane reached a high of 70,120 tons. Near the end of the Pacific War, the production had dropped to less than 1 million tons per year. By the end, there were 42 factories with 32 bombed out by the Americans. Ostensibly, the bombing was to destroy ethanol (as fuel for military uses) production, more likely it was intended to wipe out the economical base. 

After the war, the 4 Japanese owned companies, 日糖興業, 台灣, 明治, and 鹽水港, were consolidated into the gov't-owned 臺灣糖業股份有限公司Taiwan Sugar Corp Ltd. Between 1952 and 1964, sugar was still the No 1 export of Taiwan, then a decline started in 1966 followed by a brief upswing in 1972. However, by 1989, Taiwan began refining raw sugar imported from elsewhere. And 1991 was the year when Taiwan's sugar production ceased to exist, replaced by electronics manufacturing.

Taipics.com has a large collection of sugar production during the Japanese era (here). A few are shown below:

This map shows the sugarcane fields from Hsinchu all the way down to Pintung:

This is a photo of the sugar factory in Kaohsiung:

Sugarcane farmers

And mechanized sugarcane farming was widely applied:
Sugarcane awaiting processing
And how did Taiwanese sugarcane farmers who worked for the Japanese sugar conglomerates fare? Well, there was a saying: "The most stupid thing one can do is to campaign for political candidates. And the second, let the sugar companies weigh your crops." 1. Often a futile exercise and 2. Indeed, they were quite regularly shortchanged by unscrupulous corporate operators.

[For more on history of Taiwan sugar industry: here]


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