March 1995, I have two sugar campaigns behind me. I am still counting my first thousands of tonnes of sugar produced under my responsibility as production manager when an "important meeting" is held with all the key players in the Reunion sugar industry. For the thousandth time, we are going to discuss the Technical Deviation (ET), this is the base, the basis of payment for a ton of cane on Reunion Island. Each country has its own system, always with the same problem: paying the right price for a weight of cane versus a quality of the product that the sugar industry has the right to expect… A puzzle in which the unions of planters make their voices heard. It is where the planter and industrialist oppose each other.
But back to this meeting, I got there early, curious to visit the place.
Too early ... a great man of sugar then made his appearance, sober in terms of dress and elegant. Eyes sparkling, he stares me up and down, a full scan without make-up, then invites me into his office for a coffee and wait. He sits down ; invites me to do the same. I introduce myself, raising eyebrows agreed, and in a harmonious and clear voice, he speaks: "So, here is before me our "successor", the one who will replace Emile Hugot and Maxime Rivière! I was curious to meet him. "
I melt in my chair like the lump of sugar in my coffee! He's having fun, laughing; between Reunion islanders, I was treated to a first-class mockery, a hazing that corresponds to a "Welcome to the sugar world". In front of me is thus standing Maxime Riviere, a sugar figure recognized worldwide ( https://www.reunionnaisdumonde.com/magazine/1001-celebrites/riviere-maxime/ ) and his companion, cited above, Emile HUGOT, is a world figure in sugar plant, Le Monsieur Sucre from Réunion; the one who wrote the bedside book of many sugar makers around the world: “Handbook of sugar cane” ( https://www.reunionnaisdumonde.com/magazine/1001-celebrites/hugot-emile/ ).
After that... you just have to expatriate far from Reunion to survive! What I did with pleasure, “LOL”… Like them, I share this technological passion for sugar and this agro-industrial environment is perhaps the only one in the world to open doors to you all over the world. Both, Emile and Maxime, in addition to being first class engineers, are passionate about optimizing sugar extraction at the mills. With a background in biotechnology, for my part, I naturally turned to sugar processes ...
Maxime Rivière died suddenly a few months later. Today, I have worked on refineries and mills in Africa, Middle East and America … This “meeting point” thus remains a first turning point, an unexpected tête-à-tête, which has remained engraved in me so that I too can make my own way as a sugar technologist.
This first blog is written in memory of Emile and Maxime.