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Trouble in paradise; O' Brazil.

Trouble in paradise' O'Brazil (Part II)

English historian Robert Southey has written that coffee has existed in the Baia (sic) country of Brazil since 1581. Ukers', All About Coffee accepted 1723 as the date of coffee's introduction to Brazil. I feel comfortable with the year 1727. For this is the year that Francisco de Melo Palheta, who was introduced to coffee at Cayenne, French Guiana, returned to Brazil and began his own coffee odyssey (Homage to Sergeant-Major, T&CTJ, Oct. 1985).

The progress of cultivation was slow. Cane sugar was the great agricultural export of Brazil, and it was an economy ideally suited to the slave culture that supported it. Economies are slow to change unless the change is thrust upon them. From the State of Para in the North, coffee cultivation moved first to the neighboring state of Amazonas in the West thence to Maranhao in the East. In 1732 the governors of Para and Maranhao urged the further cultivation of coffee, and by 1748 there were 17,000 trees in Para alone. A 1761 decree issued in the Amazon district exempted the new agricultural product from export duties. This spurred interest in coffee cultivation investment.

In 1760, Joao Alberto Castelo Branco, a former judge in Mananhao, became chief justice in Rio de Janeiro. Castelo Branco had a vision of coffee being the source of great wealth for Brazil and determined to help extend cultivation of coffee into all the provinces of the South.

Joao Alberto Castelo Branco brought coffee plantings to Rio from the North in 1762 and gave them as gifts to those who he thought might best have the interest to cultivate them. The Capuchin monks were among those so favored, and it was they who were most successful in their labors. The Capuchin's tree is credited with being the progenitor of all the coffee of Central and Meridional Brazil.

John Hoppman, it is written, was among those who received one of Justice Castelo Branco's coffee plants. A native of the Netherlands, Hoppman migrated to Brazil in 1740. Married to the daughter of a prominent Brazilian family Hoppman had purchased a large estate in Sao Christovao where he became a successful farmer. After several false starts his venture with coffee cultivation succeeded. His financial fortunes increased and in a few years he was working to convince others of the virtue of raising coffee as a cash crop.

D. Luiz de Almeida Portugal, Marguis de Lavradio, Governor of Rio de Janeiro (1769-1779), and a Hoppman friend, named the planter to the board of commerce where Hoppman's great interest in coffee could find a focus. And so it was that John Hoppman became the first exporter of Brazil coffee. His success and position as the country's most distinguished coffee merchant, and his fortuitous marriage into the right social circle no doubt helped the entrepreneurial Dutchman to convince others of his vision of Brazil's coffee future. The practical results of his endeavors is the coffee industry of Brazil which emerged from obscurity to being the provider of almost one-half the world's coffee in the century after his passing in 1790.

Father Antonio Couto da Fonseca began to produce coffee on his Fazenda da Mendanha in Campo Grande. Dom Jose Joaquim Justiniano, a bishop of Rio de Janeiro, and an advocate of coffee pushed the idea of coffee cultivation on Father Couto of Rezende, and Father Joao Lopez of Sao Goncalo both in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Through the good offices of Bishop Dom Justiniano cultivation was extended into the valley of the Paraiba river; and through the State of Sao Paulo in 1782. Much to the credit of Dom Justiniano Bahia, and Espirito Santo were also cultivated with coffee.

Among Brazil's coffee pioneers Doctor Martinho da Silva Prado is particularly noteworthy for his advocacy of the abolition of slavery. He did more than talk. He put his convictions where his mouth was and instituted a system of freed labor on his lands. He was also a pioneer in the establishment of scientific practices for the cultivation of coffee. He planted millions of coffee trees on his fazendas; one of these "Guatapara" boasted nearly two million coffee trees.

Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.

Despite the valiant efforts at establishing Brazil as a major coffee producer, her first 75 years of coffee cultivation did not produce great commercial strides for the commodity. In 1820 among New World producers, both Cuba and Haiti far outstripped Brazil's coffee exports. In the second half of the 19th Century however, Brazil emerged as a coffee colossus. Large crops were gathered in 1842-1843, and by the middle of the century the plantations were producing annually more than 2,000,000 bags (132,000 tons). The money was rolling in.

In 1881, Francis B. Thurber in his Coffee: From Plantation to Cup reproduced a table on the world's coffee production. His source was Ceylon Directory. Brazil production was estimated at 240,000 tons. Exports of Hayti (sic) were estimated at 28,000 tons; those of Cuba and Porto Rico (sic) combined were estimated at 17,000 tons for the same year. Brazil production had more than come of age equaling 42% of world production. In the process she had drowned the efforts of her rivals in a tide of Cafe du Brazil.

The 1901/02 Brazil crop was 990,000 tons (15,000,000 60 kilo bags). 1,220,000 tons were produced in 1902/03. Brazil's coffee dreamers of the 18th Century had succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings; Brazil's dream of a positive foreign exchange became a nightmare as overproduction and then inflation swamped her economy.

The first three-quarters of the 20th Century was filled with a series of disasters for Brazil's coffee economy mostly due to the over-production of coffee, and the efforts of the State of Sao Paulo and the Brazilian Government to prevent the bottom from falling out of the value of Brazilian coffee. The last quarter of the century continues to be a struggle as Brazil uninteruptedly works to overcome the devastation of environmental conditions and a lagging world economy while at the same time trying to find a unifying policy for her coffee and its people.

Brazil's 1990/91 crop is estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 2,046,000 tons (31 million 60 kilo bags). This is 30.7% of the estimated world production.
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Title Annotation:part 2; history of Brazilian coffee cultivation
Author:Schoenholt, Donald N.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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