Sugarcane has been the product of slavery and death of many indigenous cultures for their lack of understanding the extraction process. For centuries Indigenous people along with Africans were tortured, torn from their families and forced to work in horrific conditions. African slaves were valued more because they could be organized as a workforce ,which made less of a concern to the slave masters. Some people believe the language barriers also contributed to this. Sugarcane agriculture started to flourish in the Caribbean and brought Europeans along with indentured servants to work and capitalize on this new found product. Portuguese vessels ran sugar from Brazil to their ports and exchanged this commodity for slaves and used it to make rum. The Portuguese were able to make steady income and were pioneers of the sugar trade. Other nations followed and eventually the world was addicted to sugar.As Portugal began their seaward expansion to the Atlantic world, Brazil became the land desired to create a network of trade.Brazil’s climate offered great lands with a perfect climate to grow cane.Sugar remained a luxury item, and not many could afford it, the growth of towns and the trade networks slowly started to make sugar readily available due to the high demand. One of the biggest changes that sugar brought to the new world was the desire to be taxed by the Portuguese which created tensions with Europe and the Dutch. Brazilian sugar continued to reach markets in Northwestern Europe in even greater quantities , but tools of government policy such as trade restrictions , embargoes and private ring affected routes along which sugar was traded(Ebert ,2008).
Most of the time, all of the sugar trade was directed to northwestern Europe. Brazilian sugar brought Portuguese families to Brazil to live and to develop connections that would ensure their future in the markets. It was cheaper to travel to Brazil for sugar than to the Indies, which took longer.The cost of shipping, the size of ports and vessels that were used were all agreed upon verbally with virtually no records in the early sixteenth century. Captains of ships usually had some claims or money invested in the cargo.Portugal had three major harbors that made distribution, Lisbon’s port being the largest because they had invested in a larger port to use exclusively for Brazilian sugar. Lisbon’s port was also the most expensive, but most of the freight would always be direct to here, due to the size of the port and its connections that gave ships opportunities for re-export and also credit and insurance markets that other smaller ports did not have.
Turnaround times also played an important role in choosing a port. Penambuco was a port in Brazil that gave the quickest turnaround time of around 56 days .Turnaround times were important because the Portuguese in particular were concerned with losing freight to Dutch warships and also merchants were to pay for the expensive operating cost on a daily basis until the cargo was delivered successfully and unloaded. Captains would generally go to the ports where they could be processed the fastest in order to continue their voyages.
Portugal had played with the idea of using smaller ships thinking that they might be able to avoid pirates and quickly found out that the smaller ships were just as vulnerable. Manpower to help protect the cargo became part of the cost of trade as well.The Dutch were able to cut cost by using less manpower and more cargo. Their ships were larger than the Portuguese and faster making them more economical. Tolls added to the cost of freight, sometimes the Portuguese were able to make up for toll cost and other expenses by stopping for trade in the Canary and Madeira islands. This made some voyages last a full year all for the desire of the new commodity of sugar.
Sugar helped to develop trade in the Atlantic world and created monetary exchanges between countries that been enemies in the past. In some instances sugar was used as money to repay debt as people realized all the hard work that went behind production and transport. Brazil often paid credit debt with Europe in sugar and with sugar came politicians who carefully chose their words. The Spanish Habsburgs had created conflicts with the Portuguese that changed Brazilian sugar trade. As a result, free trade in Brazil came increasingly under threat, disrupted as a result of policies resulting from the Eighty – Year War between the Spanish Habsburgs and the Dutch Republic (Ebert, 2008). Taxes and military campaigns affected the sugar trade immensely and created the need to proceed with caution when traveling to and from Brazil.
Sugar was a product under the Colombian exchange that would have never reached Europe otherwise. It is still one of the most produced plants on the planet. In a sense, sugar connected the Atlantic in many ways, and after it was brought back to Europe it influenced policy making politics and the rules of trade, that led to bigger stronger and faster ships. Portugal stands out among the Dutch and the Spanish, having knowledge of the water and capitalizing on the product of sugar cane that changed their ports, brought them more business and helped to developed relations with other nations. Even in hardships the Portuguese were able to essentially initiate slavery of Africans in an effort to compensate and accommodate the cravings of Portugal’s sweet tooth.
Ebert ,Christopher(2008) Atlantic World : Between Empires: Brazilian Sugar in the Early Atlantic Economy, 1550-1630Brill Academic Publishers Boston, MA, USA