Friday, July 30, 2010

Sugar, Sugar

I write this with "Sugar, sugar" from Archies playing at the back of my mind.

"Sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
Honey, ah sugar sugar
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you
(I just can't believe it's true)"

Recent hike of sugar prices, to the delightful glee of powers-that-be (after departure of Sugar King), makes me wonder why only here in Malaysia, we have to face sugar shortage too often I reckon it better be highly priced like spot gold and steel. Sadly, it is not highly priced like those metals, saffron (the most expensive spice) or vanilla (my favourite spice, spice baby). It is just another scam, from my point of view.

To be comforted by Najib that he's concerned about the wellbeing of us, common people, I dashed to the washroom and puked. Please, is that all you could justify such huge increase in price?

To be told to consume less sugar, I feel like protesting in front of those factories that manufacture super-sweet beverages to quench our thirst and curse our girth! Shouldn't they be strictly penalised for producing such unreasonable products? After all, they are the main consumer to our highly politicised sugar industry!

Outraged, I google-d for alternative sweeteners. Apparently, there is a natural sweetener that has been consumed for hundreds of years by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay, both as a sweetener and as medicine. It was "discovered" by Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, the director of the College of Agriculture in Asuncion, who was exploring the jungles of Paraguay in 1903.

This herb, Stevia rebaudiana, is about 300 times sweeter than sugar in its natural state, and much more so when processed. Its medicinal uses include regulating blood sugar, preventing hypertension, treatment of skin disorders, and prevention of tooth decay. Other studies show that it is a natural antibacterial and antiviral agent apart from being calorie and carbohydrate free.

However, due to devilish capitalism all over the world, Stevia couldn't make it big worldwide as it sets to disrupt the lucrative sugar business. As it is now, Stevia's potential grows side way, hitting the market on the shelf of organic food shops or sold over the internet.

In Malaysia, there have been earnest efforts by modern farmers in cultivating Stevia, which easily grows in our mild, tropic climate, but they can't do it commercially - not because they cannot but they were not permitted to do. Again, the government is not happy if their lucrative sugar business now has a more appealing competitor.

So, what am I trying to say here by promoting Stevia?

If you read about sugarcane plantation, here and abroad, you'd wonder why we have to cause so much health problems to those who work in the plantations, and to consume too much sugar that would cause much more health problems to us the consumers? I believe, what goes around, comes around. You hurt someone and one day, you'll be hurt too. What a sugary curse!

If you read further, you'd know our genius ideas are not that genius after all. We started consuming sugarcanes as raw materials to our biodiesel plants. Why on earth we allow that to happen? It is even more cruel to know that such cheap energy generated are being consumed in those power-hungry countries, leaving behind those who put their lives on stakes just to harvest the sugarcanes! How could we allow such source of food be depleted to ensure sufficient supply of cheap energy to ever-hungry target markets?

I am all for the idea of profitable business ventures but definitely not at costs of people's lives, safety, frailty and insanity, that's just evil!

In addition to the fact that sugar industry is highly politicised and deeply brutalised, I just hope that we won't go into panic mode unnecessarily when we are faced with scarcity of what we normally have. God is Great - He gives us powerful mind, body and spirit that could think, adapt and accept changes in life. The answer lies in alternatives, options, solutions and breaking the monopoly of the industry. Look at growing renewable energy market but then, in Malaysia, business monopoly is the flavour of the government, better ideas and enterprises won't see the light.

I'm scared to death to see the effects of overindulgence of sugar. Tok Keno passed away due to blood infection as a result of diabetes complications. During our visits, he often felt thirsty yet he couldn't drink too much as his kidneys were failing him. His toe started to blacken and he wailed in pain whenever we tried to move him as his flesh had sored underneath his dry skin. Health is priceless that we should guard it with all our might.

Wouldn't it be great if one fine day, our awareness to alternative sweeteners could cause 'lambakan gula' in the hypermarkets that keep telling us that we can only buy 2 kilos of sugar! So, recently i had my cousin to queue on another counter so we could buy the third kilo of sugar required for our kenduri. Gee, I feel stupid!

So, where can we get Stevia , the natural sweeterner. Well, you could actually buy Stevia from SteviaSugar Corp and Herbal Shoppes around town (which I won't advise you to do so because i hardly see these shops opened after working hours - shish!).

I am in contact now with Kamal for a free sample of Stevia. I will definitely will write about it when I have tasted the sweetener. Kamal, I found out, is an enterprising meds student in USM. Having a soft spot for pilots and medical doctors, he passed my Trust Test with flying colours :)

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