Da Gama’s discovery of an alternate route to India marked the beginning of the short-lived dominion the Portuguese had on the spice trade. Under the impetus of the spice trade, Portugal expanded territorially and commercially. By the year 1511, the Portuguese were in control of the spice trade of the Malabar coast of India and Ceylon. Until the end of the 16th century, their monopoly on the spice trade to India was exceptionally profitable for the Portuguese.
The main product brought back to Lisbon was black pepper. Pipernigrum was as valuable as gold in the age of discovery. In the 16th century, over half of Portugal’s state revenue came from West African gold and Indian pepper and other spices. The proportion of the spices greatly outweighed the gold.
The Portuguese monopoly on the pepper trade was not a long one, however, because they faced many problems from competition and from the pepper growers. By the 1580s the imports of pepper into Venice had increased, and that into Portugal had declined. Portugal had little to no control over the areas where pepper was grown. There were many instances of “illegal” trading. Cargoes were hijacked inland and taken to the Red Sea by coolies or bullocks over the mainland. When the 1590s rolled around, the Dutch attacked and successfully put an end to the Portuguese monopoly.