Coffee Trade Case Study

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The Dutch East India Company Coffee Trade By all accounts, the Dutch were late to the budding trade network that was the Indian Ocean region. They arrived when much of the region was dominated by other European regimes. However, the Dutch managed to carve out a valuable niche for themselves in the coffee trade. This was important because the Dutch had also been in relatively crippling debt due to attempts to secure Belgium’s place in the Dutch kingdom during the 18th century. The coffee trade, particularly in Java, allowed the Dutch to become completely self-reliant financially by 1876. This fiscal independence, coupled with the devotion of the Dutch colonials to creating the sophisticated Cultivation System, demonstrates the profound and integral effect the Asian coffee trade had on the Dutch state. The Dutch East India Company (also known as the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) was officially established in 1602, and notably larger than its English counterpart. Like most European enterprises in southeast Asia at the time, the VOC was established for the purpose of commerce. But the Dutch had an additional goal in mind. They believed that the trading network would fund their ability to assert independence against the Iberians, the longtime enemy of the Dutch. The Dutch also spent a considerable amount of time carving out a presence for themselves in the intra-Asian trade. They claimed monopoly rights in the Moluccas, which allowed them to become major controllers in the intra-Asian spice trade by the early 1620s. Yet both of these major initiatives would not match the veracity that the VOC stormed into the lucrative Asian coffee trade with. The Dutch found their presence at the port of Mocha, located in Yemen.... ... middle of paper ... ... European markets, the Dutch began to pull back from production efforts in Java. But despite the settling of the once-pulsating market, it cannot be debated that the commodity of coffee had a profound effect on the Dutch economy. The ability of the VOC to recognize the value of coffee during their work at the port of Mocha allowed them to envision the potential for the small but fertile island of Java. Through strategic relations with local politics, and the willingness to cede production control to local officials, the Dutch were able to carve out a Cultivation System far different from any of those employed by the competing English or Portuguese. This Cultivation System would become the engine for both the Dutch overseas and Javanese local economies, and despite its eventual failure, would be responsible for alleviating debt in both areas during the 19th century.
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