The cessation of bounties on beet sugar on September
1st, 1900, had no miraculous effect on the British West
Indies sugar industry. The beet sugar industry was too
well established to be seriously affected by the removal of
bounties. There was only a limited market for West Indies
sugar in the United Kingdom (in 1909, out of total United
Kingdom consumption of 1,600,000 tons, only 129,000 tons was
cane sugar), and beet sugar producers knew how to retain
that market by prohibitive duties at home to keep down consumption and by cheap steamship freight charges and by increasing technical efficiency.
With the abolition of bounties in 1903, United States
countervailing duties also ended and British West Indies
cane and beet sugar competed on equal terms in this market
where Cuba enjoyed a preference of 20%.
The first year following the cessation of bounties there
was only a slight increase in the price of sugar - confounding
both the Cobden Club and the West India Committee who had predieted price rises of £8 and £2 per ton respectively. A
failure of the "beet crop in 1905 brought a price rise from
£8 to £16 per ton but by 1906, beet sugar exports into the
United Kingdom were greater than ever and the price of sugar
in London was back to £8 per ton.
The United Kingdom cane sugar refining industry was
practically extinct at the end of 1902; of the fifteen
surviving refineries only one refined cane sugar. When in
World War I beet sugar supplies were cut off, Britain had
to go to New York for her refined sugar.
The saving feature in the decade following the removal
of bounties was the growth of the Canadian market. In
1898, as regards British West Indies difficulties, Mr,
Fielding, Minister of Finance for Canada, stated that Canada
had some Imperial responsibilities in the matter. In
1898 Canada admitted British West Indies sugar under a preferential rate of 25% below existing duties and this was
raised to 33.5% in 1900. In 1903, when the United States
imposed countervailing duties against bounty sugar, Canada
placed a surtax on German sugar imports into Canada to the
extent of 33.33%. The steady expansion of the Canadian market is shown in imports of British West Indian sugar which rose
from 11,000 tons in 1897 to 133,000 tons by 1909.
The muscovado industry in the smaller colonies, especially Barbados,was undoubtedly permitted to survive as
a result of the demand for this type of product in Canada.
A large amount of molasses was absorbed in the lumbering
industry and the fishing industry, where it was used as a
staple food. As was the case with the United States trade,
Canadian commission merchants, chiefly those located in
Halifax and St. John's New Brunswick,established connections
with West Indian agents through whom they purchased sugar
This thesis, covering the period, 1863-1900, has been
carried up to the date of abolition of bounties to show that
conditions after their removal did not restore solid prosperity in the British West Indies. Sugar production was
never again so lucrative as in the day's prior to Emancipation,
although sugar proprietors never really looked upon the
palmy days as beyond recall. Bounty competition had greatly
helped to force down sugar production costs which were reduced approximately one-half in the period 1884-1903.
She price of sugar never rose to expected heights of £12-£20 per ton except in two World Wars which did revive a
taste of the halcyon days.