Problems faced by the sugar industry

Categories: Slavery And Freedom

Topic: Problems faced by the Sugar Industry in the British West Indies specifically Jamaica.

Research Question: The problems faced by the Sugar Industry affected the British West Indies during the period of 1838-1876.

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In light of those problems to what extent did this result in the decline of sugar and the economic state of Jamaica.

Rationale/ Aim

It is believed that the problems faced by the sugar industry were caused due to the fact that the planters had a very negative and spiteful attitude towards the apprentices.

Also these problems were caused due to the fact that now that the slaves became newly freed, they did not want to return to the estate work. Due to the abolition of slavery the sugar industry saw a rapid decline in the production of sugar.

Reading and researching this topic sparked much interest in the researcher. To see that something so successful become unsuccessfully so quickly showed that anything is possible. The essay being done will hopefully give the researcher and society a better insight to the struggles in which the British Sugar Industry faced during the period of 1838-1876.


Topic: Problems faced by the Sugar Industry in the British West Indies specifically Jamaica.

Thesis statement: The problems that the sugar industry faced led to immense problems in the British West Indies.

This essay examines the problems in which the sugar industry faced during the period of 1838-1876. The Planter's in the British West Indies Acquired Large sums of money from the ever rowing and popular sugar industry.

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Due to the abolition of slavery in 1838; Labour that was needed for the production of sugar decreased rapidly and so did the profitable income the planter's once received.

Soon because of the lack of labour estates became encumbered. There are specific factors that contributed to the problems that the sugar industry faced. These factors are; Capital, Labour, Technology and Free Trade.

Labour:-Now that slavery was abolished, there was an increase in the price of slaves and this caused an uncompetitive rise in the price of sugar. Due to this labour became scarce and expensive. Some planter continued and hired ex-slaves to work for them and they had to pay them wages. These wages accounted for as much as two thirds of the total cost of production. Some slaves did not return back to the estate in which they worked on instead they got land for themselves and cultivated their own crops. This caused a number of territories to experience e a significant decline in the production of sugar in the first thirty (30) years of emancipation. These territories were:-


Percentage Reduction

St. Vincent


British Guiana





Decreased three times the pre-emancipation level

Capital: - The planters lacked capital in which they needed for wages and labour saving equipments and equipments. Up until the end of this period Majority of estates still used the same old techniques. The wage level was considerably high in territories where land was available and where peasantry was developing well. Two territories associated with this are: Trinidad and British Guiana who were in the expansion and establishment process.

By 1854 a number of estates became encumbered due to the fact that the planter's were filled with debt. The lack of capital forced them out of production because they could not repay their debts. Jamaica and Grenada had the highest amount of abandoned estates. The fact that these estates were encumbered their value fell tremendously. In some cases estates owed their taxes and because of this government workers could not be paid the salaries.

Technology: - emancipation gave rise to the use of Machinery. Some of the planters tried items of machinery such as the centrifugal systems the plough, harrow and vacuum pans on their estates. Others introduced the railways. Trinidad, British Guiana and St. Kitts introduced steam mills. Also some planters being in debt could not be able to afford the machinery they needed for production. The enslaved also would abuse and destroy estate equipment which is known as industrial sabotage.

Free Trade: - Before equalization there was no help to the West Indian interest. The price of sugar fell almost immediately from 33-25/10d per 50 kg. Due to the fact that the English would not lend money to any companies and banks that specialised in Caribbean issues, by 1847, 13 leading West Indian companies became bankrupt. The Planters Bank in Jamaica and the West Indian Bank both closed for good and because of these planters could not borrow money to cover their losses.

Around 474 sugar and coffee plantations went out of business in Jamaica between the years 1846 and 1852. By the year 1858 Grenada's sugar production was half that of the last year of slavery and Montserrat, St Vincent and Tobago were two thirds. After the Equalization act was passed, Planters tried to reduce cost by cutting wages by half, to this the labourers did not sit still. Due to the many protests that were occurring on the planters' estates they tried to compensate the workers for the loss of their earnings.


There were many problems in which the sugar industry faced and they had very negative effects on the Caribbean. These problems made the researcher realise that anything successful can really be unsuccessful and it doesn't matter what time it is. Although the sugar went through a lot of problems after the year of 1876 and the planter's were allowed to get immigrants to work for them on their estate, the sugar industry would try to make a comeback through this.


Caribbean Revision History for CxC- Peter Ashdown and Francis Humphreys

Caribbean History: Foundations Bk1- Claypole, William and Robottom, John

Caribbean History Theme Text

Adjustments to Emancipation: 1838-1876- Veta Dawson

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
Cite this page

Problems faced by the sugar industry. (2016, Aug 12). Retrieved from

Problems faced by the sugar industry essay
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