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Seasons in the sugar industry (1935)

contributed by kelso
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Kalamia Sugar Mill 1.  Sugar Mill taken from the office verandah;
2. Weighbridge with rake of cane;
3. Building of general office, laboratory and offices of 
     various executives - taken from top of mill.

Sugar cane, in some areas, has the benefit of irrigation (which applied to the farms in the Ayr district), where Kalamia Mill was situated. Other areas have to depend on rainfall, with obvious effects on the quality of the cane.

Kalamia Sugar Mill Cash on payday awaiting checking into envelopes for employees.  It would consist of notes of 5 and 1 pound, with 10 shilling notes, and coin of two and one shillings, with groups of six pences and three pences - not sure whether pennies were also used, but probably they are there too.  One penny would be equivalent to about one-thousandth of an average weekly pay, which would relate to about 80 cents to-day.

In the Ayr district, cane was normally planted in about April for harvesting in the second half of the following year. Mills, therefore, were active in crushing the cane between the months of June and December, normally. That period was known as the crushing season, and the remainder of the year was the slack season.

This of course had serious consequences for the mill workers, other than those who were tradesmen or had other jobs which were not dependent on the crushing. Those who were involved in the crushing operations (normally shift workers) would often be lucky to obtain work from the mill for more than a month in the slack, and might, with luck, obtain about another month of work on the farms assisting with the planting. Thus, unemployment relief was important, and workers contributed from each pay towards an unemployment insurance scheme conducted by the State government.

Kalamia Sugar Mill Staff barracks, next to general office

I can remember seeing those hoping for some work in the slack sitting on the ground in the sun near the Mill office, waiting for the Mill Manager to arrive and select a few for work that day. The others would just have to bicycle home again, disappointed - and try again later.

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