Now Indonesia is one of the largest importers of sugar in the world. It used to be the other way around. During the economic depression in the 1930s, Indonesia was the second-largest exporter of sugar, after Cuba, produced by 179 sugar factories.

Sugar crop has been founded in Java around Batavia since the 12th Century but the sugar industry potential of East Java (Oosthoek in Dutch, including Pasuruan and Probolinggo) was firstly noticed by Deandels at the early 19th Century.  This idea was continued and realized by the British colonial government led by Charles Etty Esq., a captain of the British sugar industry who has also initiated the sugar industry in Calcutta, India.

The story of the Eastern tip was one of the episodes of the successful sugar industry. Other areas around Java, especially Central Java, has significant history episodes as well. 

Nevertheless, it is worth remembering to remind the younger generation of Indonesia that it used to be possible to fulfill domestic sugar needs without exporting from other countries.

The last statistic shows that now Indonesia runs 62 sugar factories, 50 factories are state-owned (33 factories are more than 100 years) and 12 are private companies.

I visited Pasuruan and Probolinggo in spring 2019 to learn about the sugar history of Indonesia and to investigate a possibility to create a sugar heritage trail with the locals. These two cities with several other cities in the Eastern tip of Java until the Bali Strait used to be a sugar industry center. Pasuruan had a special position as a sugar town or the holy city of sugar.

Pasuruan was a location for a research institute of sugar (Proefstation Oost Java) that became the pioneer of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists (ISSCT). Now it becomes the Indonesian Sugar Research Institute.

Other thing that brought me to Pasuruan is the roman of Louis Couperus, de Stille Kracht (Kekuatan Misterius in Bahasa or the Hidden Force in English). This story of life and work of a Dutch resident was at the beginning written in Pasuruan in 1899. You can see the picture of the house in Pasuruan through this link. Later, this roman was translated into many languages, was and is still produced in many forms for theater, television, and film.

My adventure and discovery travel to Pasuruan and Probolinggo was accompanied and only possible with the company of my younger colleague, Priyo A. Sancoyo, an architect and community development specialist. He and his parents have generously hosted my visit and we had a great time sharing stories from two parts of the world.

The most impressive discovery in Pasuruan was Hotel Syariah Daroessalam, a renovated colonial building. Most of the footprints of the sugar industry are decaying but this hotel shines, alone.

Back to the core business: I have researched, exhibited, drafted, and contacted all necessary parties to raise awareness about the sugar history at the Eastern tip of Java. The dream is to create a sugar heritage trail from Pasuruan, Probolinggo (Banger), Situbondo (Panarukan), Besuki (Bondowoso, Jember), Lumajang until Banyuwangi (Blambangan). I have approached the locals about this. They should be the engine behind the trail. It might take time to enjoy the sweetness of sugar history but it will come.


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