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Problems affecting the sugar industry in post emancipation period and measures used to improve it.

Problems affecting the sugar industry 1838 to 1854 (1) Increasing cost of sugar production - There was mismanagement of estates by managers who were in charge because of absentee ownership. - Labourers had to be paid wages now that slavery was abolished.

(2) Increasing debts - Planters had borrowed extensively from British merchants and were unable to repay their loans because of low profits. - Many continued to borrow in an attempt to revive their plantations - However, banks and merchant houses were skeptical about giving loans to West Indian planters. The Bank of British Guiana and the Planters' Bank of Jamaica did not want to use estates as secuirty for loans anymore and the Colonial Bank of the West Indies did not make any substaintial loans to planters.

(3) Shortage of a regular, relatively cheap supply of labour - After emancipation there was an exodus of ex slaves from the plantations in the colonies with higher populations. - Those who left the plantations established themselves as peasant cultivators; they planted small-scale market crops and provisions and they kept livestock. Skilled Africans moved to towns where they were employed as blacksmiths and carpenters and masons etc. - Africans often supplemented their incomes by working part time on plantations but the planters found their labour unsatisfactory - the planters wanted cheap, full time labourers as they had been accustomed to during slavery.

(4) Decline in markets for West Indian sugar - Preferential duties (taxes) on West Indian sugar were removed under the Sugar Duties Equalization Act of 1846. This meant that sugar sold in Britian was to be sold at one price with no taxes added on. - Sugar from British Caribbean colonies had to compete with the cheaper sugar being produced in Cuba, Brazil and other parts of the world. - The British Wset Indies could no longer compete against much larger suppliers.

- There was competetion from bet sugar. By 1833, France had set up more than 400 factories that made twice the amount of cane sugar than was being produced at that time. - The policies of the British Government after emancipation actually helped to set back the sugar industry in its colonies. As a general rule, Britain/ England did not want its colonies making manufactured goods to compete with products from England. This policy was called mercantilism - the idea that a country's prosperity depended on geting cheap raw material from colonies, making manufactured goods from these materials then selling the goods within national borders, back to the colonies and to other countries. This policy even included refined sugar. So even though the West Indian plantations were technically capable of making refined sugar, instead of just exporting brown sugar to England to be processed into white sugar, the British Government charged higher duties on refined sugar coming from its colonies. Measures adopted to try and deal with the problems in the West iIndian sugar industry

(1) Alternative labour sources - Immigrants were brought to some Caribbean countries to work plantations.

(2) Mechanization of production - Steam mills replaced mills that were run by animals (such as cow drawn mills) - New equipment was installed, such as vacuum pans and the centrifuge.

(3) Introduction of new varieites of cane - Attempts were made to improve the varieties of cane so that cane had higher sugar content

(4) New farming techniques - New techniques developed on the fields included the use of;

the plough and harrow different types of fertilizers irrigation schemes proper drainage systems

(5) Amamlgamation of estates - Similar estates were joined together to form larger ones. This allowed for more efficient use of factory equipment and generally better management of estates. It also meant that labour was more readily avaiolable and estates could share marketing facilities. - More land was available for cultivation for cultivation so therefore the most fertile areas were cultivated. - A large estate was more likely to get loans which could then be divided and given to individual planters.

(6) West Indian planters attempted to establish newer markets - Some planters turned to the USA to export their sugar. As the USA is relatively close to the West Indies, transport costs were lower and prices were better than when supplying to Britain for example.

(7) Technical advice

-Many colonial governments employed skilled engineers to give advice to planters, for example on new types of manufacturing which could save cost. - Departments of agriculture were established by some governments. These gave advice to sugar cane farmers and offered technical assistance and financial advice on how to increase production. These government departments also conducted research on new types of crops. n.b. The above measures were adopted in different degrees according to the size and wealth of the colony and what individual planters could afford.

Outcome of these improvements to the sugar industry

Despite all of the measures mentioned, production of sugar in the British Caribbean colonies declined in the years just before and after emancipation. From 1831 and 1838, there was an overall decline of 20% and by 1842 this decline had reached 40%. This fall in production was due to several factors including: - the trade policies of the British government - competition from Spanish and French sugar producers - shortage of labour - a flooding on the sugar market of sugar from many countries


Imagine you are a sugar planter in one of the larger West Indian islands in the 1840's. Make a speech in which you: - List 3 problems you are presently experiencing. - Give 5 methods you are considering adopting to solve your problems and give one reason for each.

RELATED PAST PAPER QUESTIONS (1) Give 2 ways in which the Sugar Duties Act of the 1846 made problems worse for the planters. (2) Explain the effects on sugar production of the Sugar Duties Act of 1846.