Contesting Interests: Rice and Sugar in the Late Colonial Java

by Ying Feng

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2014
Keywords: rice; sugar; Java; Dutch colonialism
Record ID: 1255908
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/29984


This is a study of a colonial economy from an agricultural perspective, focusing on the interaction and conflicts between rice and sugarcane production in Java during the late colonial period. Rice is the most important staple food, while sugarcane has been the principal cash crop between 1870s and 1920s. Since the natural habitats for two crops are similar in many respects but large-scale intercropping was precluded due to different irrigation practices, rice and sugarcane have been competing for the limited resource of land since the dawn of mass production at the end of the nineteenth century. This thesis attempts to answer whether the proliferation of sugar plantation contributed to the rice shortage in Java, and how the shortfall in rice might influence the distribution and expansion of sugar plantation in the tropical island. Besides the quantitative analysis with agricultural statistics, it also investigates the process of policy-making, in which the colonial government exerted regulatory influence over different interest groups as far as the production of rice and sugar were concerned in the 1910s and 1920s.