This week the globalEDGE blog will look at cash crops around the world. Cash crops are crops that are grown specifically to be sold in a marketplace or traded; essentially a crop grown not for direct consumption by the farmer. Cash crops have played a large role in shaping the world throughout history. A major factor in the colonization of the New World were the dollar signs investors saw in cash crops like tobacco and cotton in the Americas. The only reason that the New World was even discovered was because Europeans were looking for a faster route to reach China and India to trade for their tea and other spices. Tea and most spices are products of cash crops.
The earliest agriculture consisted of humans planting crops like wheat for their own consumption. Soon after the discovery of agriculture people found they could easily grow surpluses of crops. These early farmers then discovered that if they planted a surplus of crops they could these extra crops. This is the origin of cash crops. These surplus crops were sold in whatever sort of marketplace that was available to the farmer. The first cash crops were simple food crops like grains; however, after some time agricultural products like spices started to be grown and traded as cash crops. Spices could be sold at a much higher price because they were considered extravagant and many people with money to give or goods to trade wanted them.
Even today cash crops play a vital part in most of the world. In India for example, the total value of cotton exported was over $7.4 billion. Even in the still-developing world cash crops are playing a major role. Cash crops are key in these developing countries to increase food security. Farmers in developing countries that are planting crops like vegetables and grains generate income for themselves and food for the people who buy these crops. This benefits both themselves and the people who buy these.
Be sure to check out our blog every day this week to see the rest of our articles on cash crops and their impact around the world. Tomorrow we will look at the impact cash crops have had on North America throughout history.