Significance of Sugar Plantation System in the Caribbean and the Rest of the World

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  887 Words
Date:  2022-03-29

Sugarcane is a commercial crop that is important worldwide. The history of the Americans with sugarcane plantations started during the early colonial period. During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries the main crop that was produced throughout the Caribbean was sugar. Despite other crops being grown such as rice, indigo and coffee sugar was considered to be the most important throughout the Caribbean. The Caribbean included the islands from the Bahamas to Trinidad and the continental enclaves of Guyana, Belize, French Guiana and Suriname. The sugar plantations had a significant impact on the Caribbean economy as well as the society during the colonial period. Most the nations in the Caribbean were shaped by the sugarcane plantations which the European superpowers started as cash crops. This essay discusses the importance of the sugar plantation system in the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

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The sugar plantations assisted in improving the Caribbean economy and also increased the revenue of most countries across the world through exportation. Sugar plantations enhanced the economic base for the Portuguese occupation of in 1500 upon its discovery. The sugar plantation was a landed estate that mainly concentrated in export production and international trade. Large quantities of sugar were shipped from Brazil to Lisbon. Sugar was sold as a rare spice or medicine, and hence its price was high. The high price of sugar led to the expansion of sugar plantations which dominated the list of Portuguese investments which were profitable in the Caribbean and Brazil. During the 1650's the Barbados sugar planters enjoyed profits of 40 to 50 % in a year. The sugarcane plantations also increased the revenue of the Caribbean since after the sugar was grown the raw sugarcane was manufactured and the molasses were then distilled into rum. According to Michael "The sugar economy was considered as being more capitalistic as compared to that of tobacco." One of the sugar by-products was molasses which was used in the production of ethanol. The ethanol produced, in turn, was used as transportation fuel which competed with the products of petroleum in due to price and availability. In Brazil, the ethanol was sold as motor alcohol.

The sugar plantation was of great significance in the Caribbean and the rest of the world since it was used a sweetener. The only local source of sugar in northern Europe before the sixteenth century was honey. The refined sugar replaced honey and was used in most of the recipes and used mainly as a sweetener in jellies, jams, and other food products that were popular. The Europeans craved the craved the taste of sugar and was mostly used to sweeten tea and coffee.

The sugar plantation led to increased industrialization which resulted in the formation of labor organizations. The industrialization assisted in the creation of employment and acted as a great contributor to the gross domestic product of individual states. According to Franklin "As the sugar industry expanded and the wage structure started to fluctuate as a result of the international market, the workers considered it necessary to organize for better working conditions and wages." One of the oldest union in the Caribbean that was formed during this period is the Free Federation of labor that was organized in 1899 at Puerto Rico. This helped the workers to be able to fight for their right of being paid well despite the reduced sugar prices.

The sugar plantations also led to technological advancement. In the year 1820, there was the introduction of the steam engine in Cuba. After harvesting the sugar cane, it was then taken to the industry where there were millers that were used to squeeze out all of the juice from the sugar cane. According to Michael "There can be no manufacturing of sugar without the use of machinery or without milling equipment's that can be used to grind the sugar cane and extract the sweet juice where the saccharose is gotten."

The sugar plantations transformed the agricultural sector. The Caribbean islands were converted from small-scale farming to large-scale farming. Farmers reduced the farming of cotton and tobacco and started farming sugarcane. This led to the emergence of wealthy plantation owners. The sugar plantation revolutionized the agricultural sector as there was the introduction of an irrigation system which was introduced by the French engineers. According to Jan Rogozinski "The private accounts of the planters indicate that till 1820s Jamaica and other British colonies remained as being successful."


In conclusion, the high value of sugar resulted in the Europeans starting sugar plantations in different colonies such as Brazil, and Caribbean islands. The sugar plantation had a significant impact on the economic development of some countries across the world such as Britain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands. The sugar plantations led to technological advancement and the sugar produced was used as a sweetener of different products. The sugar plantations led to agricultural advancement as the planters started farming in large scale.


Horowitz, Michael M. Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean: An Anthropological Reader. Garden City, N.Y.: Published for the American Museum of Natural History by the Natural History Press, 1971.

Palmer, Colin A. Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean. Chapel Hill: The

University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Rogozinski, Jan. A Brief History of the Caribbean: From the Arawak and the Carib to the Present. New York: Penguin, 2000.

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