Sunday, October 6, 2013

Location Factors: Sugar, Tea, Coffee, Rubber and Cocoa for UPSC GS Mains Paper-I[Geography]

Plantations: Why?

Factors responsible for development of plantations in Asia and America:

  1. Suez Canal was opened in 1869= this reduce the distance between Asia and Europe
  2. sail based ship were replaced with steam based ship=faster, more carrying capacity
  3. Industrial revolution= demand for rubber as eraser, waterproofing material+ consumer demand for tea, coffee, tobacco.
  4. imperialism:
    1. cheap labour = already available in colonies
    2. 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 familiesSetup, 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.

Types of Plantation crops

Three types based on relative maturation time and longevity of production

  1. tree crops
  • lifecycle >2 years
  • take years to mature
  • remain productive for long period
  • oil palm, coconut, cocoa, rubber, coffee
  1. field crops
  • Need less maintenance than tree crops.
  • sugarcane, banana
  1. annuals
  • single planting, harvested within a year
  • cotton, jute, tobacco, groundnut

Factor: Gestation

  • 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.

Factor: Price shocks

  • 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.

Sugar industry

Factor: Nature of Raw material

Sugar mills are located near sugar growing areas, because of two factors

  1. Perishable
  • sugarcane = contains sucrose
  • Once you cut the sugarcane, the sucrose content starts to decline. Hence raw material must be quickly transported.
  1. Weight-loss
  • sugar accounts for only ~10% of the bulky sugarcane and therefore it is prohibitively expensive to transport sugarcane over long-distance in its original form.

Sugar Mill and sugar refinery of two separate location principles

Sugar mill

Sugar refinery

Inputsugarcaneraw Coarse brown sugar (from sugar mill)
  • Sugarcane is crushed between rollers=sugar juice.
  • Sugar juice+lime=boiling and crystallization.
  • raw sugar is refined
  1. raw coarse brown sugar= need further refining
  2. bagasse => fodder, energy, paper-pulp industry,
  3. molasses=> ethanol
Brown and white sugars of various grades.
LocationPrinciple Must be located near sugar-farming areas because sugarcane being bulky-perishable. e.g. in Uttar Pradesh, Maharahstra, South Gujarat.
  • In countries like Japan (which rely on imports), the sugar refineries are setup @ports or near market centers.

Let's examine the factors that led to growth Desi-videsi sugar industries


Limiting factor=proximity to raw material. So sugar mills are located in 30-50 kms radius of sugar-cultivating areas.

StateLocation (list non-exhaustive)
  • Western Maharashtra's river valleys
  • Sangli, Solapur, Satara
  • Ahmednagar, Pune, Nasik
Uttar Pradesh
  • Western UP and Terai region
  • Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar
  • Sitapur, Gorakhpur, Sharanpur
  • Coimbtore, Tiruchirapalli
  • Chitradurg, Shimoga
  • Bijaipur, Belagaum, Bellary
  • Hyderabad, Nizamabad

Sugar mills: Maharashtra

  • For sugar, warmer climate=better yield=> Maharashtra grows thicker variety of sugarcane.
  • Proximity to Ocean=the difference between minimum and maximum temp. During crop-maturity months=very low=>increases sugar yield.
  • sugar crushing season is longer
  • Black lava soil=fertile + retains water=>good for growth.
  • Mills use bagasse as fuel (recall Bagasse cogeneration) = don't need coal.
  • Mumbai Port = helps in export.
  • available

Sugar: Uttar Pradesh

  • potash-lime in soil=helps in growth.
  • upper gangetic plain=rich fertile.
waterGanga, Yamuna and their numerous tributaries
energyuse bagasse instead of coal for energy.
transportDense road-network, flat terrain =easy transport.
laborSeasonal and migratory labour available=cost of production low.
marketlarge population=> high demand for gur, khandsari, sugar.
govt.sugar pricing=covered in a separate article. click me

Factor: North vs South

  1. In South India: No loo, no frost+ moderating effect of ocean=ideal for sugarcane growth.
  2. But the sugarcane cultivate/industry in South India is not as large as UP-Maharashtra belt, Why?
    1. During British-raj, North India used to cultivate indigo as cash crop but then invention of synthetic dyes=>farmers switched to sugarcane.
    2. In South India, farmers have better cash-crop alternatives e.g. cotton, tobacco, coconut, groundnut etc. so you don't see a large sugarbelt unlike UP.

Ratooning technology

  • developed by Research insti. @Coimbatore
  • ratoon crop= during harvest, you don't uproot sugarcane, leave the root intact => sugarcane grows again from that root.
  • Advantage: time, money saved.
  • challenge: sugar-yield decreases on every cycle, after 1-2 years, you need to start fresh.

Cuba the Sugar bowl

  • Hot climate, the north east trade winds= increase sugar yield.
sugarcaneFertile calcareous soil= Crops are obtained twice a year.
  • Large influx of American capital after the Spanish American war helped sugar industry of Cuba.
  • WW1 destroyed the farms in Europe, = Americans had to rely more on Cuban Sugar= prices soared, Americans invested more money in Cuban mills and bought more area under sugar cultivation.
  • Cuba faces the USA (the greatest sugar market in the world)
  • not very far off from the north west European countries
labor Initially started using slave labor.
govt. policy
  • Until Fidel Castro took over in 1959, the main export market was USA, but afterwards most of the sugar was exported to USSR and other communist countries.
  • Castro confiscated the American owned plantation and Estates, and redistributed land among workers = smaller landholdings= economy of scale declined=>unit production cost got higher.
  • So, later he organized cooperative and Sugar collectives. (like we saw in earlier in Rice: China)

Now passing references

  • sugar is grown in Louisiana and Hawaii
  • but industry is highly mechanized because lack of labour
Mauritius, Fijisugarcane Grown with help of indentured labour from India.

Sugar beet

  • German-climate unsuitable for sugar-cultivation.
  • They had to rely on imports=sugar-shortage during wartime.
  • Therefore, Germans developed a method to extract Sugar from sugar beet, and encouraged the cultivation of sugar beet for the strategic reasons of self reliance during war-time.
  • Later industry spread in Belgium and France as well.
  • In European countries, cool autumn retains the sugar content in root= higher yields.
  • Sugar juice makes up to 20% of the root= significant weightloss. Therefore, just like sugarcane, sugar beet must be processed quickly at nearby factories
  • But sugarbeet Factories cannot be fed consistently and only operate during the harvest season= increases cost of running.


raw material
  • Tea leaves => tea involves considerable weight loss. Hence tea processing is done in the estate/plantation itself.
  • further blending/repacking could be done break of the bulk location (e.g. port cities like London)
  • frost=injures the leaves=>tea not grown beyond Northern China / Honshu
  • very long winter=retards plant growth, decreases yield
Topographydoesn't like stagnant water=> has to be grown on highland or hill slopese.g. hills of Darjiling, Jalpaiguri or Nilgiri
  • Weeding, manure, pruning and plucking= tedious job: need skill+ patience=>cheap female labour force is essential. (recall the same factor for sericulture development in India, China)
  • Since tea has to be grown in hill slopes, mechanization =not possible (like in case of wheat in Canada/corn in US)
  • Even while drying, rolling, fermentation, grading and packaging of tea, skilled manpower needed.
  • Therefore, tea plantation is done near areas with high population density.

Black vs Green

black teagreen tea
  • leave sun dried=>steam rolled =>fermented=>roasted.
  • result=considerable weighloss hence processing done @the estate itself before exporting.
  • leaves heated immediately with steam, not allowed to ferment
  • Result=tannin content is higher, gives a peculiar taste and 'kick'.
  • Indians and Europeans like black tea
People in far east and Japan like green tea more. They consume it without adding sugar/milk (obviously because this region doesn't a have well developed dairy industry.)

Factor: break of the bulk (London)

  • Break of the bulk=place where mode of transportation changes e.g. waterway to railways.

The rise of London Tea Biz

  • In the era of Colonization, British controlled Indian and Sri-Lankan tea estates and had 'sphere of influence' in China.
  • Therefore, lot of tea went to London port and from London the large consignments were broken, various blends were mixed and tea was re-exported to other European countries + USA (which was a 'colony' of Britain at that time) + local consumption.

The fall of London Tea Biz

  • In world history, we saw that Americans revolted against the tea-tax imposed by Britain= Boston Tea Party, and then American war of independence= Thus tea export to USA declined, product became expensive, Americans shifted to Coffee drinking.
  • Later Both Indian and Sri-Lanka gained independence, Communist rule in China=now tea was exported directly to the recipient country in Europe, rather than via 'middleman' London.

Tea: Darjeeling

  • Britain had accumulated truckload of wealth from its Asian-African colonies + industrial revolution.
  • By 1830s, monopoly over Chinese tea-trade was lost with the entry of other European players exercising sphere of influence over China.
  • The indigo cropping in Bihar was not giving good returns.
  • Suez Canal opened=distance reduced.
  • All ^these factors led to British "FDI" going in the Indian tea-plantation activity.
Climatemorning fog, low temperature=high grade leaf
  • Tista, Rangreej, Mahananda, Balason+ many streams.
  • Gradual melting of Himalayan snow=feeds water to rivers/streams even in dry season.
  • +south-west monsoon provided sufficient water
soilsoil has good quantity of phosphorous+potash=>gives special flavor to Darjeeling Tea.
TopographyGrown in hills=no stagnant water.
LabourLarge estates have residential, school, hospital facilities=>permanent labor force working for generations.
  • Yes, local + foreign demand.
  • Proximity to Kolkata port=good for export.

Tea: China

Mostly grown on Yangtze-Kiang and Sikiang valleys

Climatesummer monsoon keeps the temp good for tea
Topography hills
  • grown and used since ancient times= people are skilled @growing tea.
  • Famers grow tea on the nearby hills as secondary crop for additional income, otherwise primary crop is rice.
  • Compared to Indian Estates, Chinese tea Farms are smaller, usually less than 1 acre.
  • Yes local + foreign demand. Yangtze-Kiang leads to Shanghai port. And Location advantages of Shanghai port already discussed in Textile article.
  • Although most Europeans prefer Indian black tea because it is stronger than Chinese variety.

Some passing reference to other countries and factors

  • mountain slopes
  • red volcanic soil containing a lot of iron
Sri Lanka
  • Cheap labour, good climate, hills
  • British tried coffee, but a blight in 1870s wiped out coffee plantation => shifted to tea.
Indonesia Ocean breeze and cheap supply of female labour


factor impact
  • Coffee needs to be protected from direct sunlight, especially when plant is young.
  • in Yemen / Ethiopia annual rainfall is less than 20 inches but still coffee grows well because thick sea mist=provides moisture and protects from excessive heat.
  • Coffee likes abundant moisture but hates waterlogging=>hilly slopes receiving orographic rainfall are best suited for coffee.
  • Hill slops facing the sea=even better, because they benefit from the mist and sea breezes=cooler. (and coffee hates direct sunlight/heat)
  • Berry has to be picked by hand, sorting the ripe berries from leaves, twigs etc. also needs patience and skill.
  • Since coffee has to be grown in hillslopes, large scale mechanization =not possible (unlike wheat in Canada or Corn/Cotton in US)
  • Coffee loses flavour quickly after being roasted. Therefore, only preliminary processing done in exporting country, and roasting done in the importing country.

Factor: American Revolution

  • Initially the Europeans that had settled in USA, consumed tea imported from Britain.
  • But then King George imposed heavy tax on tea exported to USA => Boston tea party revolt + American war of independence=> tea supply halted= Americans switched to Coffee and thus USA became major market for Brazil and Columbian coffee cultivators.

Let's check some important coffee growing regions and factor responsible.

Brazil: Sao Paulo

Map Brazil Coffee

Coffee grown in the North-Eastern region of Brazil. Brazilian Coffee plantations are called "fazendas" (because in Portuguese, Fazenda=farm)

Factor Impact
  • volcanic soil known as terra roxa (red soil)= rich in minerals, potash and humus
  • soil remains productive for many years of coffee cultivation without requiring additional fertilizers.
  • in Brazil tall leguminous plants are used to provide shade + enrich the soil with nitrogen fixing bacteria
  • Brazilian current=mist=keeps temperature moderate.
  • moderate temp= not much shade needed + lower occurrence of diseases
  • Special railways passing through hills and tunnels to connect plantations to port cities of Rio De Janeiro etc.
  • they move from one estate to another
  • Their wages are low, but they are allowed to grow maize, vegetables, rear poultry for personal use in the fazendas.
MarketUniversal demand, except where tea is the main beverage.
  • in 1870s, a blight disease destroyed Sri Lankan Coffee plantation, hence Brazil took the opportunity to fillup the vaccum in world market.
  • They cleared the virgin forest and started coffee plantations. When soil started losing fertility they'd simply destroy more forest and move interior to make another plantation => low unit production cost because no fertilizer used.

Coffee: Kerala

Kerala=> Western Ghats + Nilgiri Hills region = suited for both Tea+coffee.

  • red soil=best suited
  • Hill areas of Kozhikode, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kottayam=no stagnant water
  • Coffee grown on Northern and Eastern slopes of the ghat (Because coffee hates direct sunlight)
  • Moderating effect of Lakshadweep sea= temp stays ~25 throughout the year.
TransportKochi port
MarketKochi port to (mostly) Italy+local demand in South India

Rubber Plantations

Raw Material
  • Natural Rubber is obtained from latex of rubber trees.
  • Latex=white milky liquid, collected by making cut on rubber tree bark.
  • Latex=contains 30-40% rubber, rest material lost during processing => preliminary processing is done near Raw material site.
  • hates cold + likes abundant moisture=both condition met near tropics
  • Tapper need to make cuts deep enough to chop the latex tube but without damaging cambium=need skill.
  • Latex is collected by affixing artificial cups on the tree bark.
  • but latex will coagulate in cup, if kept for long=> tapper needs to collect latex regularly
  • Hence rubber collection=need lot of laborers.

Processing of Natural Rubber


  • Latex from tree=>diluted with water & strained to remove dirt.
  • Diluted latex + acid =rubber coagulates and forms slabs on top.
  • these slabs removed ,pressed in mill to squeeze out liquid
  • slabs=dried=become thin sheets= easy to pack & export

Factor: technology

Rise of Natural rubber demand

  • 1830s: Charles Goodyear of the USA invented vulcanization process= increased the industrial applications of Natural rubber.
  • 1890s: automobile industry= pneumatic cars=needed rubber.

Fall of Natural rubber demand

  • In the 1920s, USA began to develop synthetic rubber. Although natural rubber was still preferred because new technology was costly.
  • But WW2= Japan occupied Southeast Asia=natural rubber export to USA was cutoff.
  • In response, US government developed a huge synthetic rubber industry in a very short time and after WW2, sold it to private companies.

Rubber: Malaysia

Climate hot moist equatorial climate=suitable for Rubber trees.
Labourimmigrants from China + Tamils from India
  • Rubber research Institute in Kuala Lumpur
  • new selective breeding methods
  • new tapping methods to cut the labour cost
Government PolicyReplanting:

  • A new rubber tree yields 3-4 times more latex than an old tree.
  • Hence replanting of rubber tree=increases the yield.
  • Malaysian government, provided active support for replanting.

Quality control

  • Government regulates the export quality by "standard Malaysian rubber (SMR)" system e.g. SMR5 grade rubbber, SMR50 grade rubber.
  • Thus, Malaysian rubber comments respect and good prices in international market for its uniform quality.

Rubber: Kerala

In Kerala, Rubber grown on hill slops of W.Ghats in Travancore, Kozikode, Malabar, Kottayam distrcits.

  • Rubber hates cold + likes abundant moisture
  • Kerala being coastal state + hills=both condition met.
  • tapping done in morning to avoid afternoon rains.
soillaterite soil=good growth.
labourAvailable and skiled. One tapper can go through almost 250-300 trees per day.

Kerala= lot of coconuts=their shell is used as "cup" to collect latex. Other than that, not much wisdom is given in books regarding 'location factor'.

Factors: Why decline in S.America

Rubber is originally from Brazil, their government had banned export of rubber plant to maintain monopoly However, an Englishman smuggled the seeds out of Brazil, spread Rubber plantation in Sri Lanka and other S.E.Asian countries. But today S.American countries don't figure in top Rubber producers, why?

  1. South American Countries= prolonged struggles for independence, coups, countercoups =instability=no attention to infra/research necessary for Rubber.
  2. Their governments did not understand the importance of replanting like Malaysians =yields kept decline after every year.
  3. Rubber estates confiscated with change of regimes, land redistributed among peasants= small scale rubber production =cannot maintain 'uniform quality' for exported rubber + no more 'economies of scale'= unit cost of production increased.


  • 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.

Ghana, Cocoa Triangle

In Ghana, the triangular area between Takoradi, Kumasi and Accra towns has max. Concentration of cocoa cultivation= famous as "Cocoa Triangle".

soil, climatecocoa tree need warm wet climate, forest protection.Ghana being in the equatorial belt. So all conditions met.
labourneed lot of  cheap laborers because

  1. cocoa fruits have to be manually cut with a machete.
  2. Since cocoa trees grown in jungle areas= have to manually carry it near the mainroad/railway line.

Ghana has abundant supply of cocoa-labourers known as Tumbadors.

transport/marketPort of Takoradi and Tema.Mainly grown for export to US and dairy countries of Europe (Swiz, Den, Neth).

Factor: Processing

(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
    1. Powder: mix with sugar, milk & make chocolate.
    2. Cocoa-butter: used in cosmetics, cream-lipstick, pharmaceuticals etc.

So why does Ghana export cocoa-beans, why not finished products?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Just passing reference

  • fruit ripens very quickly.
  • without refrigerated boats, impossible to ship product from tropics to US/EU market.
  • banana producing regions nearest to major markets have trade advantage. e.g.  Caribbean islands

In the next article, we'll see the location factors for Iron-steel-heavy industries.

Mock Questions

5 marks/50 words

Explain the reason(s) for each of the following:

  1. Sugarcane is more economical to produce cane sugar beet.
  2. more cane sugar enters the world trader then beet sugar
  3. The invention of chocolate making was the greatest single factor in rapid expansion of cocoa cultivation
  4. chocolate making factories are located in importing countries rather than in cocoa-producing countries

12 marks /120 words

  1. Explain the geographical factors responsible for large-scale commercial cultivation of any one of the following pairs:
    1. Tea and Coffee
    2. sugarcane and sugar beet
  2. consider the basis of regional specialization in tropical beverages with special reference to any one major beverage crop.
  3. for any selected area, examine the relationship between development of coffee or tea because of following factors
    1. climate
    2. relief and drainage
    3. labour Supply
    4. government policy

25 marks/ 250 words

  1. Tropical and Sub-tropical regions are the chief suppliers of beverages to the temperate markets. Comment
  2. Plantation agriculture is essentially limited to the tropical and subtropical areas. What are the factors responsible for this particular concentration?
  3. Analyze the factor responsible for underdevelopment of Plantation economy near tropical regions.
  4. Examine the factors influencing commercial production of rubber in Malaysia or Tobacco in USA.

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1 comment:

  1. Juices and coffees are the best booster in the weight loss. I drink coffee thrice in the day.

    Kopi Luwak