The Symbiosis of Coffee and Food Crops

  • Verena Stolcke
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series


The distinctive labour system the planters devised as a substitute for slave labour, the colonato, provided expanding coffee plantations with cheap and disciplined labour. The extraordinary spread of coffee, whose production increased fivefold between 1890 and 1907, is proof of their success.1 São Paulo coffee soon became the main foreign exchange earner for the country while Brazil became the main coffee supplier for the world market, a position both were to maintain until the 1950s.2


Coffee Planter Coffee Production Price Support Coffee Tree Large Estate 
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  1. 1.
    W. Cano, Raízes da concentração industrial em São Paulo (São Paulo, 1977) p. 41; São Paulo coffee production rose from 2.9 million bags in 1890 to 10.2 million in 1901 to 15.4 million in 1907.Google Scholar
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    J. de Souza Martins, O Cativeiro da Terra (São Paulo, 1979) and more recently, A. M. da Silva da Silva, ‘Família e Trabalho na Cafeicultura’, Cadernos de Pesquisa, 37 (São Paulo, 1981) attribute the colonato system to the absence of a labour market, the abundance of land and the shortage of capital on the part of the planters. But this system consolidated precisely when a labour market had been constituted.Google Scholar
  3. Moreover, they disregard labour conflict as a primary factor. B. Sallum Jr. Capitalismo e Cafeicultura, Oeste Paulista; 1888–1930 (São Paulo, 1982) interprets this combined cash-crop and self-provisioning system as a way of reducing the reproduction costs of labour; he does not, however, consider the important incentive element and the role played by the family.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Verena Stolcke 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Verena Stolcke
    • 1
  1. 1.Universidad Autónoma de BarcelonaSpain

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