The port of Surat declined by the end of the eighteenth century
India had a vibrant sea trade. The Port of Surat was an extremely important trading port in India.
- Surat on the Gujarat coast connected India to the Red Sea and the Gulf.
- Hooghly in Bengal, Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast had trade links with Southeast Asian ports.
- Supply merchants linked the port towns to the inland regions.
- Merchants procured the woven cloth from weaving villages by giving advances to weavers.
- Merchants carried the supply to the ports.
- At the port, the price negotiation with the supply merchants who were operating inland, were done by the brokers of export merchants and big shippers.
- A variety of Indian bankers and merchants were involved in the network of export trade – supplying exporters, carrying goods, financing production.
- Bales of fine textiles were carried on camel backs across the deserts, through mountain passes, via the North-West Frontier.
- Persian and Armenian merchants took the goods from Punjab to Central Asia, Eastern Persia, and Afghanistan.
Decline of Trade – Surat Port
- The Indian merchants who were controlling the above mentioned trade, began breaking down by the 1750s.
- Power was gradually gained by the European companies.
- Initially the European companies gained a variety of concessions from the local courts.
- Later on, the European companies gained the monopoly rights to trade.
- These factors led to the decline of Surat port and Hooghly port which were earlier operated by the local merchants.
- From the port of Surat, the exports started declining dramatically.
- Local bankers started going bankrupt.
- The trade which was financed through earlier credit, started to dry up.
- To understand the extent of decline in trade at Surat port, by 1740s the value of trade at Surat port had come down to Rs 3 million from Rs 16 million in the last years of the seventeenth century.
- As the old ports of Surat and Hooghly declined, new ports of Calcutta and Bombay grew, signalling the growth of colonial power in India.
- Trade through new ports of Bombay and Calcutta was carried by European ships and European companies.