Sugar cane originated in South and Southeast Asia. The oldest record about crystallized sugar stems from 5000 years ago. About 800 AD it was introduced to Europe and Northern Africa and it was one of the early crops brought to the Americas. It grows in tropical and temperate climates and is one of the most efficient photosynthesizers among plants. More than 50% of production is manually harvested and predominantly grown in developing countries. The top producers are Brazil, India and China – in terms of acreage and tonnage, covering together 65% of world figures. Africa only grows about 5% of world production, 30% of which comes from East Africa. The largest sugar cane areas of sub-Saharan Africa are in South Africa, Mozambique and Cameroon; whereas, South Africa is the leading producer followed by Sudan, Kenya and Swaziland. If one looks at worldwide yields, 6 sub-Saharan African countries are among the top 8 countries: Peru yields are highest (135 ton/ha) followed by Egypt, Senegal, Malawi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania (103 ton/ha). However, in the global context sub-Saharan Africa ranks only 21st in production extent. In sub-Saharan Africa most countries process sugar cane into other products. A few exceptions are in Ghana (92% of the sugar cane production), Cameroon (30%), and Congo DR and Kenya (about 20% each) where humans directly consume the crop as food.

Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008

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