Cash Crops

Throughout the world’s rainforests the greatest losses in cover have been due to the clearing of land for agriculture, in particular for ‘cash crops’ grown in large plantations. These plantations are often controlled by foreign multinational companies with few of the profits going to the growers. Producer countries are also adversely affected by trade barriers, set up to protect the industries of the wealthier countries. As a result of the huge rise in worldwide demand, large areas of forest have been cleared in recent years to plant coffee trees. This has particularly happened in Vietnam, where vast tracts have been cut down and low-grade coffee has flooded the market, reducing the price that can be obtained by the growers and bankrupting the smaller farmers in Latin America. At the present time, vast areas of the Amazon rainforest are being converted into soyabean plantations, to provide animal feed for European and other markets.

What can we do?

bananas-chocolate-coffeeIn recent years there have been initiatives to improve the income of coffee, banana and cocoa growers, and at the same reduce the further loss of the forests by encouraging the use of more sustainable methods of farming. One of these is the ‘Fair Trade’ movement which allows a fairer return to the growers for their work, and enables them to farm in a more sustainable way so that their future is more secure. Buying these products directly helps people living near the rainforests to gain a better livelihood, thus reducing the need to cut further trees to earn a living. In addition you can also buy ‘bird friendly coffee’ which has been grown under the canopy. The Living Rainforest sells shade-grown, Rainforest-Alliance-certified coffee from El Salvador in its shop and cafe. It may be slightly more expensive but it is the best- flavoured coffee, so you get an excellent cup of coffee and help conserve the rainforest at the same time. Acting in a sustainable way need not necessarily lead to a loss in living standards!

4 comments on 'Cash Crops'

  1. Delia says:

    What is the pitfall of cash crop plantation?
    Are all cash crop low quality like the “low-grade coffee”?

  2. Karl Hansen says:

    Hi Delia – It’s too simplistic to say that cash crops are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It depends on the context, including factors like what ecosystems the crops are replacing, the crop management system adopted (incl. the sustainability, productivity and longevity of the new cropping system) and who benefits (e.g. local communities or just multinational companies). So the question you are asking is huge and the answer could be the subject of an entire book or more!

  3. MJ(yes i know hes dead) says:

    I am doing a project on the tropical rainforests and one of the topics is cashcrops. I saw that in the amazon a lot of deforestation is happening because of a demand for soya beans. Are there any other cash crops like this and how will it affect the tribes?

  4. What kind of land or plantation would be used to make cash crops?

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