By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. (Fort Lauderdale Attorney)
(Aerial shot of Brechin Castle sugar factory in the 1950s)
Trinidad, Guyana, and the Caribbean were often overlooked until their natural resources made them useful for foreign powers, as Dr. Eric Williams explained. Sugar, cocoa, petroleum, and oil have attracted international investments for centuries. Caroni (1975) Limited, a sugar company, was one of the largest businesses in these industries.
Sugar was the dominant industry in Trinidad when the United Kingdom first colonized Trinidad & Tobago. In 1787, Picout de la Perouse allegedly opened the first sugar mill. (That site is believed to be the present-day Lapeyrouse Cemetery.) Enslaved Africans, Indian indentured servants, and later free workers in factories harvested and produced the sugar. In the 1880s, several small estates struggled to profit and sold their estates to the larger sugar plantations. The large sugar factories were also referred to as “usines.” Other British companies abandoned sugar altogether.
The remaining sugar plantations and factories were mainly located in the fertile plains of central Trinidad and around San Fernando. The large factories would grind the sugar canes from local estates and farms, often run by Indians and Indian descendants, and transport the sugar via trains.
By the 1960s, nearly all of Trinidad’s sugar was produced by Caroni Limited, owned by the British company Tate & Lyle. The government bought this company in 1975 and it was renamed Caroni (1975) Limited. Caroni (1975) Limited produced sugar, rum, molasses, and bagasse (“the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugar cane, used as fuel for electricity generators”).
The sugar industry was surpassed by the cocoa and oil industries in both production and resources. Europe transitioned to beet sugar instead of the cane sugar in the West Indies. The higher wages in the oil industry also attracted many workers from Caroni (1975) Limited. In 2003, the government shut down Caroni (1975) Limited. The decision was met with much controversy and speculation, and left 20,000 factory workers displaced.
Caroni (1975) Limited’s reign and ultimate demise exemplifies the perils of valuable Caribbean industries. Natural gas and oil industries in Trinidad and Guyana are expected to drastically increase in the upcoming years. Proper corporate management and government oversight are warranted to prevent mismanagement and conflicts analogous to those in the Middle East’s oil industries.
A History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago by President Dr. Eric Williams
Caribbean History Archives
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a civil litigation/transaction and bankruptcy attorney. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.
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