Sugar Hispaniola; the Portuguese followed shortly thereafter
Sugar Cane Plantation 1500-1800 The American sugar industry evolved between 1500 and 1800 as planters adopted innovations in land use and in the mills. The Spanish began commercial sugar production in Hispaniola; the Portuguese followed shortly thereafter in Brazil. The sugar cane is not a native plant of the western hemisphere; it originated from New Guinea and subtropical India. Sugar plantation economy was based on agricultural mass production of sugar cane. Evidently, the rise of sugar economies points out to a transformative power of a single commodity, which resulted to crop determinism. 1) To this effect, economies of the Caribbean colonies expanded massively in the sense that sugar plantations shifted to production that realized economies of scale that brought massive wealth to the colonies especially Great Britain.
Mass production for trade was facilitated by slave labor, large scale plantations, and high population density with Black majority who offered labor and market; there was high output per capita. In the commercial sense, the Caribbean sugar production allowed an expanded system of commerce and the ability and necessity of trade transactions with the colonies.Caribbean production of sugar cane became entirely dependent on the British market. This dependency resulted in the Caribbean creating a cheap supply of sugar to Britain. This trend is evident in the fact that there was an increase in sweet tooth and dental decay in 1650s.
(2) The commerce of sugar is attributing to expanding trade into the commercial revolution and eventually led to the English imperial expansion in the seventeenth century. Sugar quickly became Britain’s leading colonial import in 1640s and yielded a far higher and steadier profit than any other American cash crop grown at time. 3) The ability to increase mass production of sugar allowed the colonies to stimulate economic growth, especially to the Caribbean colonies and the world in the following ways: it provided the engine for a variety of triangular trades, sugar can be directly linked vitally to the industrial revolution, it generated a massive boost to the Atlantic slave trade that extended to West African states.
It also could be recognized as a leading cause of altered European nutrition and increase in daily sugar consumption.Sugar production and trade resulted in increased European interest in tropical colonies and also can be directly linked to the need of Europe and America to be powerful politically and economically. Sugar can also be seen as a reason that early explorers used to conquer many colonies.
(4) In order to facilitate the ability to keep up with supply and demand, the mass production of sugar was a necessity and plantation owners needed to create a way that they could actually increase their need to actually mass produce sugar cane.This led to the fact that labor shifted from free labor to slave labor in which slaves were bought from Africa in order to farm the plantations of sugar cane. Plantation owners in the New World needed slaves for agricultural labor of their plantations. The African slaves were preferred because of their strength. These slaves were seen as a necessity due to their cost effectiveness and ability to achieve a high output of picked sugar cane and their ability to survive in the extreme conditions.
Slaves were chosen by these conditions because they were seen as more valuable than horses because of reports which indicated that horses were unsuitable; due to their short life span and limited working hours. The slaves became disciplined and were forced to work in bad conditions for long hours at young ages in harsh temperatures. Slaves were exposed to extreme brutality, physical hardship, and were barely able to meet basic needs of survival on some of the plantation estates.Sadly, women were exposed to various plights from sexual abuse from their masters and their sons to consequences of sexual division of labor, while at the same time under pressure to bear children so that there were future generations of slave labor.
Thus, commercialization of the sugar estates lead to cruel working conditions that are associated with the rise of sugar economies as well as the abuses of slavery. (5) During the last three centuries, the sugar industry evolved as planters adopted innovations in land use and milling technology.Owners were more innovative in some colonies than in others, and the willingness of planters in a given colony to innovate varied throughout the years. The mills as enabling sugar processing technologies were simple technology. On the economy of scale perspective, capital equipment of factories was a costly investment.
Small farmers sold their sugarcane to large central mills they owned through co-operative structured arrangements. However, most of the factory mill complexes employed animal mills.This was evident in Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Cuba and Barbados. Brazil was a center of innovation until about 1600, but there-after the Brazilians lapsed into a traditionalism that by the 18th century had become the target of agricultural improvers. (6) Later, the planters in Barbados were the first to borrow techniques from Brazil. The Barbadians then began to make their own innovations around 1700, and continued to adopt innovations well into the 18th century. 7) With the passage of time, the contrasts between the land use not only of Brazilian and Barbadian planters, but also between the innovative and the traditional planters elsewhere in tropical America became more marked and the industry took on distinct regional characteristics.
Despite much contribution of the sugar plantations to the Caribbean colonies and global economies, sugar plantation economy faced various challenges at the start of 19th century.These challenges were in terms of slave abolition and rebellions, trade interruption and emergence of the sugar beet industry which threatened to collapse the industry in Caribbean. But in the early 1900’s, UK and US trade agreements rescued the sugar plantation in the Caribbean islands. (8) This is evident by US amalgamations and investments in 1930s, especially in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba that increased sugar productivity.
(9) The greatest move that rescued the industry was the act of carrying slaves to US, sugar to Britain and realized money going back to purchase slaves in Africa.