AS A city slicker gazing at a supermarket shelf, not much thought is given to how those little crystals of sugar came to be.
Living in Bundaberg, we have it right in front of us, from the cane trains and trucks to the unmistakeable smell of molasses in the air.
But you can't truly appreciate the level of processing involved in sugar production until you step inside a sugar mill.
Bundaberg Sugar's Millaquin Mill is a good place to start, and Rural Weekly was invited to tour the facility with Bundaberg Sugar general manager David Pickering.
The mill employs 500 people and purchases more than $43 million worth of goods and services from the Bundaberg region business community, from fuel and fertiliser to gas and steel.
It is also self-powered, burning bagasse - the dry cane fibre that is left over when all the sweet juice is squeezed out of it - to produce steam for power generation and processing, with surplus electricity exported to the grid.
"It's not smoke you're seeing out of those towers, but steam,” Mr Pickering said.
From when the cane is weighed and tipped into a carrier, to shredding and rolling to extract the juice; removing the mud - which is then returned to replenish the cane fields - and reducing it to sugar syrup; to separating molasses from massecuite in high-speed centrifugals, before the sugar is dried, ready for shippping, it is an intensive production process.
But Mr Pickering says there is little waste, and it is not just the sugar on the supermarket shelf: the molasses goes into stock feed, liquorice, and our beloved rum next door.
BUNDABERG CRUSH REPORT, WEEK ENDING Sept 17
IT WAS a wet start to week 14 of the season.
The Bundaberg Mills crushed 80,166 tonnes of cane, bringing the tonnes crushed so far to 928,893, approximately 54% of the estimated crop.
Bundaberg Sugar grower services officer Bruce Roberts said the rain early in the week had a detrimental effect on the CCS.
"The weekly average at Bingera was 13.99 units, lower than the previous week by 0.28 units.
"The average CCS at Millaquin decreased by 0.26 units and was 13.96 for the week. The district average CCS was 13.97 units and 13.61 for the season to date,” he said.
"The highest variety CCS average was KQ228A with a result of 14.59 units (18% of supply). The highest individual CCS recorded for the week was from a Bingera grower with 16.60 units and this was for KQ228A first ratoon.”
The major varieties crushed at Bundaberg mills were Q242A, which was 22% of supply and averaged 13.28 units of CCS, followed by Q240A (20% of supply) at 14.28, KQ228A (18% of supply) at 14.59 and Q208A (14.3%) at 14.08 units.
"As the season has passed the halfway mark, mid-season estimate productivity results will be posted out to Bundaberg Sugar growers this week. Growers are asked to check for any anomalies and contact Bundaberg Sugar's grower services officers if there is a need for alterations to crop estimate, variety or class details,” Mr Roberts said.