- Plantations: Why?
In the last three articles, we saw geographical factors that affect the location of timber and fish industry; Natural fibers: wool, cotton, silk and jute industry; Cereals: wheat, rich and corn; and finally milk, meat, poultry and pig rearing industry. Now let’s examine location factors for a few beverage and plantation crops viz. tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar and rubber. Disclaimer as usual: not covering everything.
Factors responsible for development of plantations in Asia and America:
- Suez Canal was opened in 1869= this reduce the distance between Asia and Europe
- sail based ship were replaced with steam based ship=faster, more carrying capacity
- Industrial revolution= demand for rubber as eraser, waterproofing material+ consumer demand for tea, coffee, tobacco.
- cheap labour = already available in colonies
- Capital/finance= provided by Europeans.
there is some difference in the origin of Asian vs. American plantations:
|American plantations||Asian plantations|
|usually owned by rich families||Setup, Financed and controlled by commercial companies based in Europe.|
|was started with help of African slave labor.||with help of locals + indentured laborers from India, China.|
Three types based on relative maturation time and longevity of production
- Plantation of rubber, cocoa, coffee= need large scale investment, you will not see profit for many years, until the tree matures.
- Such crops are unsuitable for small scale planter because he can’t afford to keep land unproductive for more than a year.
- Annual crop are better suited for smallholder, they allow greater flexibility in planting followed by a harvest the same year. Hence plantation system has almost retreated from sub-tropics: they instead grow tobacco/cotton.
- Even when the commodity prices fall in the world market, the plantation owner must continue to operate, he cannot is rapidly switch to another crop.
- On the other hand small scale farmers can grow an alternative crop to fetch them higher price. E.g. Many UP farmers have shifted to other crops.
- Originally from Central and South America, associated with Aztec civilization.
- Spanish brought it to Europe, but only after Europeans learned the art of chocolate making, cocoa demand increased.
- Then Europeans introduced cocoa in West African countries.
In Ghana, the triangular area between Takoradi, Kumasi and Accra towns has Concentration of cocoa plantations, hence called “Cocoa Triangle”.
|soil, climate||cocoa tree need warm wet climate, forest protection.Ghana being in the equatorial belt. So all conditions met.|
|labour||need lot of cheap laborers because|
Ghana has abundant supply of cocoa-labourers known as Tumbadors.
|transport/market||Port of Takoradi and Tema.Mainly grown for export to US and dairy countries of Europe (Swiz, Den, Neth).|
(just for information)
- cocoa fruitpod=> pulp removed= you get 20-30 seeds from each pod
- Seeds covered in banana leaves and allowed to ferment for a week=> sun dried.
- Tropical damp climate = cocoa beans quickly lose flavor after roasting. Therefore, further processing done in the importing country (e.g. USA)
- they roast the bean=>grind=> you get two products
- Powder: mix with sugar, milk & make chocolate.
- Cocoa-butter: used in cosmetics, cream-lipstick, pharmaceuticals etc.
So why does Ghana export cocoa-beans, why not finished products?
- Unlike USA, Ghana doesn’t have abundant supply of other ingredients of chocolate/confectionary items viz. milk and sugar. Even if Ghana imported milk/sugar from elsewhere to make chocolates, the final market is in US/Europe=> transport cost makes the industry @disadvantage.
- Ghana doesn’t have drug/cosmetic industry that can efficiently utilize by-product: cocoa-butter. (because drug/cosmetic industry require ‘skilled’ labour)
Ecuador used to be a major cocoa exporter but trees were plagued by fungal disease=> farmer switched to banana, coffee and sugar cane.
In the next article, we will discuss the graphical factors affecting the location of rubber plantations in Malaysia and India.