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Sugar Production Latin America in the 1800s

Domination of the world sugar market in the late 18th and 19th centuries depended very much on the dynamics of slavery in Latin America.


In the late 1780s, Saint Domingue (the island now occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic) produced twise as much sugar as the second-largest sugar-producing nation, supplying 30% of the world’s sugar (Klein 90). In August, 1791, the slaves on this island revolted, killing most of the white plantation owners and forcing the rest to flee the country. In 1804, Haiti was founded and slavery was abolished on the island. Consequently, the world lost its main sugar producer, since European nations were not willing to trade with the rogue nation. Because of this abrupt drop in supply, the world sugar price rose sharply (90). Between 1791 and 1805, Jamaica, Cuba, and Brazil stepped in to fill the sugar-supply void, more than doubling their sugar production during this period (92).


In the 1830s, Jamaica abolished slavery. By 1840, Cuba had taken over as the leading sugar producer, since Jamaica could no longer compete with the cheap cost of producing sugar with slave labour. By 1870, Cuba was supplying the world with 41% of its sugar with Brazil still a major player (93). Slavery was at last abolished in 1887 in Brazil and abolition in Cuba occurred around the same time (130).


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