From machete to machine in Brazil’s cane fields

For nearly five centuries, the classic image of sugar production in Brazil has been one of workers setting cane fields on fire and then descending on the crop with their machetes for harvest.

No longer.

More than half of the cane in Brazil’s main sugar-producing area of Sao Paulo state was harvested using machines during the 2009/10 season, a historic first that portends greater efficiency in coming years. The shift is occurring so quickly that some producers face a four-month waiting list to get the right equipment.

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