Scribal points to the first person to identify where sugar cane originated.
Points once again to Mary Beth! Sugar cane comes from the east and is not a native American crop. Live Science has an interesting article called "How Sugar Changed the World." Here's an excerpt on the connection between sugar cane and slavery:
Today more sugar is produced in Brazil than anywhere else in the world even though, ironically, the crop never grew wild in the Americas. Sugar cane — native to Southeast Asia — first made its way to the New World with Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage to the Dominican Republic, where it grew well in the tropical environment.
Noting sugar cane's potential as income for the new settlements in the Americas — Europeans were already hooked on sugar coming from the Eastern colonies — Spanish colonizers snipped seeds from Columbus' fields in the Dominican Republic and planted them throughout their burgeoning Caribbean colonies. By the mid 16th-century the Portuguese had brought some to Brazil and, soon after, the sweet cane made its way to British, Dutch and French colonies such as Barbados and Haiti.
It wasn't long, however, before the early settlers realized they were lacking sufficient manpower to plant, harvest and process the backbreaking crop.
The first slave ships arrived in 1505 and continued unabated for more than 300 years. Most came from western Africa, where Portuguese colonies had already established trading outposts for ivory, pepper and other goods. To most of the European merchants, the people they put on cargo ships across the Atlantic — a horrendous voyage known as the Middle Passage — were merely an extension of the trading system already in place.
Sugar slavery was the key component in what historians call The Trade Triangle, a network whereby slaves were sent to work on New World plantations, the product of their labor was sent to a European capital to be sold and other goods were brought to Africa to purchase more slaves.
By the middle of the 19th century, more than 10 million Africans had been forcibly removed to the New World and distributed among the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean.