From Paddy to Packet: India's Sugar Boom
Sugar and spice and everything nice is an apt description of the Indian subcontinent these days. While India has long been known as the home for exotic spices like cinnamon, paprika, and curry (just as Marco Polo), today their agricultural economy is growing in no small part due to a major infusion of that sweet, sweet crop known as sugarcane. India has a long way to go before they can match the big boys at the sugar table (Brazil exports as much sugar as the rest of the world combined) but their arrival on the scene has sent the price of the commodity dropping due to bumper crops in the past season. Sugar fell from just over 19 cents per pound in April to 15.3 cents per pound today due to an overproduction of Indian sugar. What happened that made India step up to the table and be a global power in the sugar business?
A Colonization Curiosity
Three hundred years ago, India produced its own cash crop of tea in such record quantities that it effectively supplied the entire world with the caffeine infusion of their choice. Most of us have heard about the triangular trade that connected Europe, Africa, and North America, but another particularly lucrative triangular trade connected India with China and Europe. In the early 1800s, Europeans desperately wanted Chinese silver but had nothing to offer them except tea; colonists cleared major tracts of land in India to grow tea, ship to China, and return with a bevy of silver that they deposited in European banks or used to clear more Indian growing plots. India slowly dropped their production of tea during the end of their colonization, however, while neighboring Sri Lanka ramped up production to the point where they are the world leader in tea exports today. Upon reaching independence, the Indian government subsidized the growth of rice in order to feed the exploding population, resulting in far less cash crops and far more low-profit farming operations. That's only changed recently.