New Industries in the Caribbean

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Name: N. Ricketts
Topic: Newer Industries
Caribbean economies from their earliest periods of colonization were essentially agrarian based (during slavery). Economical activities included livestock farming and small farming done by the peasants. There were also trading and commerce which included the establishment of shops, inns and taverns. Large plantations were worked by a mass of slaves with the premier crop being Sugar Cane. When the colonizers first came to the West Indies they mainly grew crops such as coffee, cotton, ginger, banana and cocoa mainly for export. However during the second half of the 18th century, these crops lost their comparative advantage to sugar. When sugar experienced its depression the planters relaxed their stronghold over control of the land and some estate workers turned their attention to the peasant sector and other industries. NEW INDUSTRIES

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the peasantry had begun to play a very important role in the diversification of the West Indian economies. The Royal Commissions before the Norman Commission, and the Norman Commissions had made recommendations for the development of the peasantry (Curtis: p 32). Many of the export crops recommended by the Norman Commission were already being cultivated by the peasantry. For these crops to have greater success, the peasantry would need capital for greater investment. But this capital was not forthcoming. This was due to the fact that they had limited capital, occupied small plots of land because they were charged a lot for these lands. Additionally the peasants cannot produce at subsistence level. The black peasantry in particularly faced a number of obstacles which included the increase in land prices, eviction from lands, refusal to subdivide and sell lands and also heavy taxations. The planters most of the times sold large pieces of lands for lower cost to the whites in comparison to the ex-slaves. Rice, which had been cultivated earlier as a subsistence crop in Guyana began to assume importance as a cash crop in the late nineteenth century. The abandonment of sugar cultivation on some estates made more land available, as did the opening up of riverain crown lands in 1898 on what for some were manageable terms of purchase. By 1900 government interest was being channeled through the board of agriculture with conducted experiments in different rice varieties and supplied seed to the growers. A more objective was to develop a uniform grain size to reduce wastage in the milling process and by 1908 this had been substantially achieved. All of this stimulated further expansion so that, whereas in 1891 the land under rice amounted to only 4000 acres, there was a tenfold increase in the following two decades, and by 1917 for every ten acres planted in sugar, Guyana, eight acres were planted in rice. Expanding rice acreage was accompanied by the mushrooming of small mils. In 1914 there were 86 of them in existence. They were hardly elaborate structures but they were linked to the large mercantile firms in the capital and they controlled growers in the villages through a system of advances. Many of the millers, like many large rice growers were Indians who employed Indian labour, and the evidence suggests that ethnicity hardly guaranteed favourble treatment. In 1905 it was exporting to the Caribbean. Rice enjoyed considerable prosperity during the first war. In the inter-war period alternative sources of supply to the Caribbean market dried up and this provided the main basis for the steady expansion of the industry in Guyana. Guyana is by far the most important producer of rice in the Commonwealth Caribbean. There were about 20 thousand peasant farmers in 1952; by 1965 their numbers were believed to have more than doubled, reaching 45 thousand. There were 222 rice mills in 1960 and 199 in 1970. All were privately owned, except two which were owned and operated by the Rice Development Company. Bananas were...
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