The Agricultural history of Seychelles

THE AGRICULTURAL HISTORY OF SEYCHELLES

Cotton (Used in textiles)

The first recorded export crop of Seychelles was cotton in 1796.  Cotton plantations were established by African slaves who were brought to Seychelles during the period of French colonization.  By 1810, 3,000 acres of land were turned into cotton plantations.  Between 1812 and 1817, 6,147 bales of cotton were exported to Europe.  In 1822, when a surfeit of American cotton brought prices down on the European market, from $80 a bale to $30, cotton growers in Seychelles abandoned their cotton production.

 

Coconuts Oil and Coprah (used in confectioneries, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics).

It was as long ago as 1790, when Louis Jean-Baptiste Philogene de Malavois (1748-1827) was the commandant, that the commercial importance of coconuts began to be exploited.  Small quantities of oil were made for local consumption.  Coconuts grew abundantly on the coastal plateaux of many of the Seychelles islands.  In 1840, 30,000 velts (around 300,000 litres) of coconut oil were exported to Mauritius.  In 1876, 722,580 coconuts were exported.  In 1880, 18,993 hectoliters of coconut oil were exported.  By then, the landowners, who were mostly descendants of the French Settlers, had established vast coconut estates on their properties.

These were to become the economic mainstay of the colony for almost a century.  Between 1911 and 1914, the number of coconuts harvested reached over 105 million nuts.  The harvest for the year 1919 alone was 36,423,072 nuts.  Between 1894 and 1904, 141,355 hectoliters of oil were exported.  In 1902, the first export of 5,390 kilos of coprah fetched Rs 827.  In 1904, 267,200 kilos brought Rs 43,744.  There was such an insatiable demand for coprah on the European market that up to the late 1960’s coprah production in the colony of Seychelles injected millions of rupees into the economy.  Between 1915 and 1919, a little over 85 million nuts were converted into coprah for export market.  Almost overnight, coprah had become the gold of the Indian Ocean!

The figures are fascinating –

1920 – 1922 8, 128 tons exported

1927 – 1932 30,833 tons exported

1944 – 1948 29,537 tons exported (Rs 9,943,92)

1949 – 1952 25,584 tons exported (Rs 21,965,863)

1958 – 1962 25,923 tons exported (Rs 24,370,769)

1966 – 1970 27,048 tons exported (Rs 27,597)

During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of inhabitants earned their livelihoods from the coconut industry.  By then, almost 25,000 acres of land throughout the colony was under coconut cultivation.  By 1940, there were a total of 275 coconut oil mills and 50 coprah kilns.  There were approximately 2 million coconut palms.  Coprah was exported to Mauritius, South Africa, France and United Kingdom.

 

Vanilla (Used in confectioneries and perfumeries)

Vanilla is among the oldest of spices.  It originates from the tropical rainforests of Mexico and dates back to the Mayan civilization.  Vanilla was introduced in Seychelles in 1866 and the first export was 60 kilos in 1877 valued at Rs 1,195.  In 1883, 2,776 kilos were exported.  Land owners, appreciating the economic prosperity of vanilla production allocated many acres of their prosperities for its cultivation.  The year 1901 saw a record crop of 71,899 kilos of vanilla valued at Rs 1,483,245 (Rs 15,42cts per kilo).

 

Indeed, Vanilla cultivation proved to be a veritable windfall for the agricultural economy of the Seychelles.  Between 1893 and 1903, the harvest was 454,379 kilos – more vanilla than all the other British Colonies put together.  In 1907, 70 tons were exported.  Between 1960 – 1964, which was the time when vanilla growers were ceasing production for the export market because of the cheaper synthetic vanillin that most countries were buying, a total of 21,972 tons of vanilla were exported for the value of Rs 1,103,399.  Between 1966 and 1970 the relatively meager amount of 8,191 kilos were exported for the value of Rs 295,000.

 

Cinnamon (used in pharmaceuticals and confectioneries)

Cinnamon was introduced in Seychelles in 1772 by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786), a French naturalist and administrator of Mauritius and Reunion (1767 to 1773).  He did this with the avowed purpose of competing with the monopoly that the Dutch had on spices.

Seychelles exported its first cargo of 740,123 kilos of cinnamon in 1908 for a value of Rs 50,166.  Between 1915 and 1918, 52,162 litres of cinnamon oil were exported.  By 1919, it became evident that cinnamon, together with coprah and vanilla, had become the three pillars of the colony’s agricultural economy.  During that particular year, forty-four cinnamon distilleries worked producing 24,430 litres of oil for the export market.  All the crown lands were leased for cinnamon cultivation.

Indeed, cinnamon, the spice which is mentioned in Exodus 30:22-25, as one of the ingredients that Moses should include to make the oil of Anointment, brought unprecedented Wealth to the colony:  Between 1909 – 1913, the export of cinnamon brought over 4 million rupees.

1915 – 1918:  52,162 litres of cinnamon oil

1924 – 1928:  237,944 litres of cinnamon oil

1930 – 1934:  275,238 litres of cinnamon oil

1949 – 1952:  335,863 litres of cinnamon oil

1933 – 1937:  151 tons of cinnamon barks

In 1947, 861 tons of cinnamon barks were exported for a value of Rs 71,002

Between 1955 and 1960, 4,694 tons of cinnamon barks were exported, compared to 472 tons of oil.  9 inches cinnamon quills were first exported in 1959 to the United Kingdom to establish it on the spice market.  In 1960, 8,920 kilos of quills valued at Rs 25,760 were exported.  In 1968, 9 tons of quills were sold for Rs 98,144.  That very same year 3,059 tons of cinnamon brought Rs 7,485,731 to the colony.  By then, approximately 14,000 acres of land were under cinnamon cultivation.

In 1970,8 tons of quills sold for Rs 106,000.

Nowadays, cinnamon trees have become part of the natural scrubland and grow wild on many of the islands.

Besides, coconuts, vanilla and cinnamon which evidently provided the colony with the bulk of its revenue there were other agricultural produce which, although the revenue from their Commercial Production was somehow relatively lower, made substantial contributions to the country’s economy and provided livelihoods for many inhabitants.

These were:

Patchouli (used in perfumes) this fragrant Asiatic plant was discovered growing in the hills of La Misère in 1901.  Widely cultivated, the commercial production of this plant for export began in 1920.  In 1924, 1,025 litres of patchouli oil were shipped abroad.  In 1928, the export was 2,325 litres.  In 1947 there was the first export of 11 tons of dried leaves.  Between 1949 and 1952, 11,264 kilos of patchouli oil were exported for a value of Rs 1,353, 345.  The commercial cultivation of this planted lasted up to 1968 when 460 tons of oil and 6,504 kilos of dried leaves brought Rs 47,098.

 

Rubber (used in a wide variety of manufactured products).

Rubber trees were first planted in 1907.  Tapping of rubber began in 1911, and in 1915 there was the first export of 285 kilos.  In 1916, an export of 2,739 lbs brought Rs 6,746.

By 1920, there were some 80,000 rubber trees in the colony and the export for that year was 24,040 lbs.  Between 1925 and 1929, 56,657 kilos of rubber were exported.

 

The Guano Industry

The word ‘Guano’ originates from the language of a South American tribe that once ruled the Inca Empire.  It means ‘bird droppings’:  It is rich in phosphorus and it is an effective fertilizer.

During the Ice Age, all sea birds of Europe took refuge in tropical regions and all those enormous deposits of Guano were formed by them.

Guano exploitation on the outlying islands of Seychelles began in 1845, when Guano from Coetivy Island was sent to Mauritius to be used as fertilizers in sugarcane plantations.  Between 1895 and 1901, 12,774 tons of guano was exported for Rs 158, 644.  Between 1901 and 1960, some 687, 453 tons of guano worth Rs 17 million were exported from the Seychelles.

The islands that produced most guano were: Assumption, St. Pierre, Astove, Providence and Denis Island. Guano exploitation was still being done in 1964 when the export of 3,848 tons brought Rs 164,724.Guano exploitation was done by private firms who were given leases of the islands in payment of a royalty to the Government and an export duty.  Guano was exported to Ceylon, New Zealand, Mauritius and South Africa.

Cotton (Used in textiles)

The first recorded export crop of Seychelles was cotton in 1796.  Cotton plantations were established by African slaves who were brought to Seychelles during the period of French colonization.  By 1810, 3,000 acres of land were turned into cotton plantations.  Between 1812 and 1817, 6,147 bales of cotton were exported to Europe.  In 1822, when a surfeit of American cotton brought prices down on the European market, from $80 a bale to $30, cotton growers in Seychelles abandoned their cotton production.

 

Coconuts Oil and Coprah (used in confectioneries, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics).

It was as long ago as 1790, when Louis Jean-Baptiste Philogene de Malavois (1748-1827) was the commandant, that the commercial importance of coconuts began to be exploited.  Small quantities of oil were made for local consumption.  Coconuts grew abundantly on the coastal plateaux of many of the Seychelles islands.  In 1840, 30,000 velts (around 300,000 litres) of coconut oil were exported to Mauritius.  In 1876, 722,580 coconuts were exported.  In 1880, 18,993 hectoliters of coconut oil were exported.  By then, the landowners, who were mostly descendants of the French Settlers, had established vast coconut estates on their properties.

These were to become the economic mainstay of the colony for almost a century.  Between 1911 and 1914, the number of coconuts harvested reached over 105 million nuts.  The harvest for the year 1919 alone was 36,423,072 nuts.  Between 1894 and 1904, 141,355 hectoliters of oil were exported.  In 1902, the first export of 5,390 kilos of coprah fetched Rs 827.  In 1904, 267,200 kilos brought Rs 43,744.  There was such an insatiable demand for coprah on the European market that up to the late 1960’s coprah production in the colony of Seychelles injected millions of rupees into the economy.  Between 1915 and 1919, a little over 85 million nuts were converted into coprah for export market.  Almost overnight, coprah had become the gold of the Indian Ocean!

The figures are fascinating –

1920 – 1922 8, 128 tons exported

1927 – 1932 30,833 tons exported

1944 – 1948 29,537 tons exported (Rs 9,943,92)

1949 – 1952 25,584 tons exported (Rs 21,965,863)

1958 – 1962 25,923 tons exported (Rs 24,370,769)

1966 – 1970 27,048 tons exported (Rs 27,597)

During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of inhabitants earned their livelihoods from the coconut industry.  By then, almost 25,000 acres of land throughout the colony was under coconut cultivation.  By 1940, there were a total of 275 coconut oil mills and 50 coprah kilns.  There were approximately 2 million coconut palms.  Coprah was exported to Mauritius, South Africa, France and United Kingdom.

 

Vanilla (Used in confectioneries and perfumeries)

Vanilla is among the oldest of spices.  It originates from the tropical rainforests of Mexico and dates back to the Mayan civilization.  Vanilla was introduced in Seychelles in 1866 and the first export was 60 kilos in 1877 valued at Rs 1,195.  In 1883, 2,776 kilos were exported.  Land owners, appreciating the economic prosperity of vanilla production allocated many acres of their prosperities for its cultivation.  The year 1901 saw a record crop of 71,899 kilos of vanilla valued at Rs 1,483,245 (Rs 15,42cts per kilo).

 

Indeed, Vanilla cultivation proved to be a veritable windfall for the agricultural economy of the Seychelles.  Between 1893 and 1903, the harvest was 454,379 kilos – more vanilla than all the other British Colonies put together.  In 1907, 70 tons were exported.  Between 1960 – 1964, which was the time when vanilla growers were ceasing production for the export market because of the cheaper synthetic vanillin that most countries were buying, a total of 21,972 tons of vanilla were exported for the value of Rs 1,103,399.  Between 1966 and 1970 the relatively meager amount of 8,191 kilos were exported for the value of Rs 295,000.

 

Cinnamon (used in pharmaceuticals and confectioneries)

Cinnamon was introduced in Seychelles in 1772 by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786), a French naturalist and administrator of Mauritius and Reunion (1767 to 1773).  He did this with the avowed purpose of competing with the monopoly that the Dutch had on spices.

Seychelles exported its first cargo of 740,123 kilos of cinnamon in 1908 for a value of Rs 50,166.  Between 1915 and 1918, 52,162 litres of cinnamon oil were exported.  By 1919, it became evident that cinnamon, together with coprah and vanilla, had become the three pillars of the colony’s agricultural economy.  During that particular year, forty-four cinnamon distilleries worked producing 24,430 litres of oil for the export market.  All the crown lands were leased for cinnamon cultivation.

Indeed, cinnamon, the spice which is mentioned in Exodus 30:22-25, as one of the ingredients that Moses should include to make the oil of Anointment, brought unprecedented Wealth to the colony:  Between 1909 – 1913, the export of cinnamon brought over 4 million rupees.

1915 – 1918:  52,162 litres of cinnamon oil

1924 – 1928:  237,944 litres of cinnamon oil

1930 – 1934:  275,238 litres of cinnamon oil

1949 – 1952:  335,863 litres of cinnamon oil

1933 – 1937:  151 tons of cinnamon barks

In 1947, 861 tons of cinnamon barks were exported for a value of Rs 71,002

Between 1955 and 1960, 4,694 tons of cinnamon barks were exported, compared to 472 tons of oil.  9 inches cinnamon quills were first exported in 1959 to the United Kingdom to establish it on the spice market.  In 1960, 8,920 kilos of quills valued at Rs 25,760 were exported.  In 1968, 9 tons of quills were sold for Rs 98,144.  That very same year 3,059 tons of cinnamon brought Rs 7,485,731 to the colony.  By then, approximately 14,000 acres of land were under cinnamon cultivation.

In 1970,8 tons of quills sold for Rs 106,000.

Nowadays, cinnamon trees have become part of the natural scrubland and grow wild on many of the islands.

Besides, coconuts, vanilla and cinnamon which evidently provided the colony with the bulk of its revenue there were other agricultural produce which, although the revenue from their Commercial Production was somehow relatively lower, made substantial contributions to the country’s economy and provided livelihoods for many inhabitants.

These were:

Patchouli (used in perfumes) this fragrant Asiatic plant was discovered growing in the hills of La Misère in 1901.  Widely cultivated, the commercial production of this plant for export began in 1920.  In 1924, 1,025 litres of patchouli oil were shipped abroad.  In 1928, the export was 2,325 litres.  In 1947 there was the first export of 11 tons of dried leaves.  Between 1949 and 1952, 11,264 kilos of patchouli oil were exported for a value of Rs 1,353, 345.  The commercial cultivation of this planted lasted up to 1968 when 460 tons of oil and 6,504 kilos of dried leaves brought Rs 47,098.

 

Rubber (used in a wide variety of manufactured products).

Rubber trees were first planted in 1907.  Tapping of rubber began in 1911, and in 1915 there was the first export of 285 kilos.  In 1916, an export of 2,739 lbs brought Rs 6,746.

By 1920, there were some 80,000 rubber trees in the colony and the export for that year was 24,040 lbs.  Between 1925 and 1929, 56,657 kilos of rubber were exported.

 

The Guano Industry

The word ‘Guano’ originates from the language of a South American tribe that once ruled the Inca Empire.  It means ‘bird droppings’:  It is rich in phosphorus and it is an effective fertilizer.

During the Ice Age, all sea birds of Europe took refuge in tropical regions and all those enormous deposits of Guano were formed by them.

Guano exploitation on the outlying islands of Seychelles began in 1845, when Guano from Coetivy Island was sent to Mauritius to be used as fertilizers in sugarcane plantations.  Between 1895 and 1901, 12,774 tons of guano was exported for Rs 158, 644.  Between 1901 and 1960, some 687, 453 tons of guano worth Rs 17 million were exported from the Seychelles.

The islands that produced most guano were: Assumption, St. Pierre, Astove, Providence and Denis Island. Guano exploitation was still being done in 1964 when the export of 3,848 tons brought Rs 164,724.Guano exploitation was done by private firms who were given leases of the islands in payment of a royalty to the Government and an export duty.  Guano was exported to Ceylon, New Zealand, Mauritius and South Africa.

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