1540-1640: The Sugar Boom

1540-1640: The Sugar Boom

The Portuguese occupied Brazil early in the colonial period. They brought in Sugar canes into the South American country to set up plantations. By the mid-sixteenth century, Portugal had succeeded in establishing a sugar economy in parts of the colony’s northeastern coast. Brazilian sugar plantations grew exponentially. In 1518, the first plantation was built. By 1540, One report suggests that there were 800 operating sugar cane mills. The Brazilian sugar economy boomed and then soon became the main supplier of sugar to the Europeans, passing the Arabs who had monopoly over that industry for a long time. The rise of Brazil in the sugar economy lowered the prices of the product that used to only be available to the wealthy. Sugar now became more available to the common man thus increasing the demand for it. Nevertheless, the Portuguese came to have control over the market for almost a century. The Dutch soon caught up with their dominance over the Caribbean and set up an economy that was well-tuned and able to compete with the Brazilian sugar economy. After a long share of the sugar industry, the Portuguese simply could not compete any longer as the drop in sugar price continued to minimize the profits. Meanwhile, political upheaval and movements for independence on behalf of the Brazilians also affected the stability of the market. Thus, ending the Brazilian sugar economy’s dominance and threshold. The sugar industry at the time was infamous for being one of the biggest importers of slavery during the slave trade. At one point in history, one-third of all slaves from Africa were sent to Brazil to work in the sugar mills. The Portuguese reliance on African slaves was due to the demise and deterioration of the native population in Brazil. Many natives died in large numbers as tribes were wiped out due to their exposure to European diseases, such as the flu and small pox.

*SIDE NOTE* Sugar itself does not satisfy our main nutritional needs, yet for some reason man is genetically programmed to seek out sugar.