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Koffie Stelsel

"The Governor-General Willem van Outshoorn immediately summoned all Priangan regents to be involved in the plan of planting coffee in Java"

During the ruling of Sultan Agung I, Priangan had become Mataram’s defensife base to fight VOC in Batavia, as well as to counteract the expansion of imperial Banten to the East. However, after Sultan Agung died in 1645, the relationship between Mataram and the VOC began to get stronger. The internal conflict and the emergence of riots in Mataram attracted VOC to become allies of Mataram. In return for ‘the good service’. VOC got a loan in the form of lan in Priangan district from Mataram. By its tricky move, VOC conquered Priangan region through two stages of agreement between Mataram and VOC, in the year 1677 and 1705.

VOC, then ran indirect government system in Priangan by appointing local regent to run the administration on behalf of the VOC. On February 19, 1706, VOC appointed Aria Cirebon to be the regent of VOC. He was responsible for overseeing and coordinating the administration of the entire Priangan region (Hardjasaputra 2004: 33).

At the beginning, the main interest of the VOC was trade, hence the VOC simply demanded the regents to acknowledge its existence by selling their productsto the VOC more over, the regents were prohibited to have trading and political relation with other parties. It was the initial step for VOC start the trading monopoly in Java Island. When the coffee seeds planted around Batavia were recognized as high quality seeds by Amsterdam botanical gardens, the Governor-General Willem van Outshoorn immediately summoned all Priangan regents to be involved in the plan of planting coffee in Java. VOC realized that regents had the authority, charisma and an enormous influence over their community. This became one of the considerations for VOC in implementing trade practices and their exploitation in Java (Hardjasaputra, 2004: 33-35).

The agreement between the regents of Priangan and VOC was known as Preanger stelsel, in which coffee became mandatory crops. Because at the beginning of the project, the Governor-General van Outshoorn himself invited the regents of Priangan to be involved in cultivating the coffee, the agreement also was called Koffie stelsel (Gabriella & Hanuns 2003: 25).

In 1707, VOC began distributing the seeds of Coffee Arabica to the Regents of West Priangan. Regents suc as Cianjur and Sukabumi, got the seeds from Batavia, whereas the regents of East Priangan supplied from Cirebon (Yahmadi 2000: 181). This became the first step go grow coffee in a large scale in the Priangan. The regents of Priangan were responsible starting from the maintenance to deciding the number of coffee trees to be planted, as it was related with the volume of coffee production to meet the demand of VOC.

As the ruler of the region, the system has given a dual role to the regents of Priangan. Besides supervising and maintaining the coffee trees, the regents also collected coffee from farmers in their territory, to be sent to VOC’s warehouses in Batavia and Cirebon. This position made the regents of Priangan the intermediary agents in coffee agriculture system run by the VOC in Java.

VOC would pay each basket of coffee (about 61 kg) for 5-6 Dutch Ringgit to the regents of Priangan. This made, Koffie-stelsel or Preanger-stelsel more likely a trade agreement between the regents of Priangan and VOC in Coffea arabica agriculture system in Java (Hadjasaputra 2004: 34-37).

The first 400 kg coffee were brought by VOC in 1711 (Hardjasaputra ibid: 36). The coffee were brought by VOC to the Amsterdam auction house, and got a very good response eve recorded the highest auction price (Uker’s 1922: 213; Gabriella &Hanusz 2003: 25).

After receiving the first shipment of coffee from the regent of Cianjur, VOC got the next shipment of coffee from Cirebon and other districts in Priangan. In 1720, Maetsuijker and Zwaardecroon ahipped about 100,000 pon of coffee to Amsterdam for the European market (Mawardi 2000: 2). In 1723 in the West Priangan, especially in Cianjur district, there were more than one million coffee trees (Yahmadi 2000: 181). So, it would not be surpised if about 1,264 tons of coffee that were sold and distributed in Amsterdam in 1725 came from the coffee plantations in the West Priangan (Mawardi 1999: 2; Bulbeck 1998: 144).

In 1726, the coffee products from Java flooded Amsterdam market as much as 2,145 tons while only 277 tons Mocha coffee was absorbed by the market.

The meant about 90% of coffee auctioned in Amsterdam originated from the coffee Plantations in the island of Java.

Since then, the coffee from Java, which was popular as Java Coffee, had succeeded replacing dominance of Mocha coffee continued to raise. Then, the coffee from the plantation in the Java Island started to fulfil the demands of the coffee shops which were growing in major cities of Europe, in the middle of 17th century.

As the cebter of the coffee plantations in Java, Priangan became an important area for the Netherlands, and this was because of the role of Priangan regents.

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