|Source plant(s)||Sugarcane (caña de azucar)|
|Part(s) of plant||Cane|
|Geographic origin||Latin America|
|Main consumers||Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico|
Panela (Spanish pronunciation: [paˈnela]) is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical in Central and Latin America, which is basically a solid piece of sucrose obtained from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice. It is known by various other names in different regions of the world. It is called piloncillo in Mexico, where the word "panela" is used for a cheese: Queso Panela. Jaggery is a similar product in other parts of the world. Unrefined cane sugar is also known as raspadura.
Panela is also consumed in a granulated form, also known as "whole cane sugar", which looks much more like table sugar. Panela is marketed in many different forms, ranging from solid blocks of differing weights to liquid or granulated forms for use in the canning industry, confectionery, soft drinks, bakery, and in making wines and vinegars. In the cosmetics industry, panela has also been used in facials and masks, taking advantage of the presence of glycolic acid in juice, and is being used in treatments to slow the aging of the skin.
Regional names for Panela
- Raspadura in Cuba, Ecuador and Panama
- Rapadou in Haiti
- Rapadura in Brazil and the Dominican Republic
- Tapa de dulce in Costa Rica
- Papelón, Panela or Miel de Panela in Venezuela
- Panela, chancaca and piloncillo in the rest of Latin America
Economics of panela
The main producer of panela is Colombia (about 1.4 million tons/year), where panela production is one of the most important economic activities, with the highest index of panela consumption per capita worldwide. Panela is also produced in Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia (where it is called chankaka or empanizao). In Colombia, the panela industry is an important source of employment, with about 350,000 people working in nearly 20,000 trapichess (panela farms).
According to the agroindustrial chain of sugarcane, its production is a major agricultural activity in Colombia. In 2003, sugarcane contributed 4.2% of the value of agricultural production without coffee and 1.9% of national agricultural activity. That year, it was 9th in contributions to production value, surpassing products such as corn, upland rice, cocoa, beans, sorghum, banana exports, snuff, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and barley, among others.
Similarly, it represents 10.7% of the area for permanent crops and 6.2% of the total area cultivated in Colombia, sixth place among the country's crops, behind only coffee, corn, rice, bananas, and cotton. This product is produced predominantly in the rural economy, the basic economy of 236 municipalities in 12 national departments.
An estimated 70,000 farm units cultivate sugarcane for mills, which generates more than 25 million annually in wages, employing around 350,000 people, or 12% of the economically active rural population, making it the second-largest for employer after agricultural coffee production.
Worldwide, the Colombians are the largest consumers of sugarcane in the world, with more than 34.2 kg per capita. To the extent it is a low-cost sweetener with important contributions of minerals and trace amounts of vitamins, high intake occurs mainly in strata. Panela consumption represents 2.18% of expenditure on food of the citizens and in some areas accounts for up to 9% of food expenditures in low-income sectors.
It was originally created as an easier way to transport sugar. In Venezuela, it is an essential ingredient for many typical recipes, and in some parts of the country, it is used in place of refined sugar as a more accessible, cheaper and healthier sweetener.
The main use of the panela in Colombia is for aguapanela, one of the most widely consumed beverages in Colombia. It is also used in the preparation of guarapo and various desserts. Since it is a very solid block, most Colombian homes have a hard river stone (la piedra de la panela) to break the panela into smaller, more manageable pieces. Panela can be purchased in markets, local grocers, and online stores. In parts of coastal Colombia is used for chancacas.
Known as piloncillo in México, it is most often seen in the shape of small, truncated cones. Many Mexican desserts are made with piloncillo, such as atole, capirotada, champurrado and flan. It is also blended with different spices, such as anise, cayenne or chocolate.
It is used to make chancaca.
This sweet food has been used successfully in the pharmaceutical industry in poultices to treat infections and epidermal wound healing. The subproducts derived from sugar cane production process can be used in animal feed and fertilizer for soils.
Panela is believed by Colombian grandmothers to very beneficial effects in the treatment of colds, in the form of a hot drink with lemon called aguapanela, which moisturizes and reduces discomfort. Cold sugar water is commonly used by some athletes as a natural sport drink, refreshing and providing calories and minerals for better performance and greater physical endurance. However there is no scientific evidence..
The National Panela Pageant
The National Panela Pageant takes place in the town of Villeta, Cundinamarca. This town is famous for its production of sugarcane, but the festivities occur in almost all national departments of Colombia in January of each year. Villeta is located 91 km from Bogota and has 37,300 inhabitants. The festival has been celebrated since 1977 as a tribute to the hard work and craftsmanship with which the peasants of the region make panela. It creates a sense of regional and national integration, sharing of a common bond. Each year, a National Queen, is crowned, on the basis of beauty, popularity, and knowledge about the production and marketing of panela.