Sugar production is often associated with higher levels of economic inequality, particularly when taking place under colonial extractive institutions. Colonial Java is an illuminating case where the reverse is true. This paper presents detailed district-level data to suggest that, due to the specifics of the local institutional context, sugar production in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries stimulated the expansion and persistence of communal landholding. This communal landholding consequently led to more equally distributed plots in the early twentieth century. An IV strategy, using a newly computed index of sugar suitability as an instrument, is used to suggest the effect is causal. This paper shows the importance of local property rights institutions in determining the effects of export production on economic outcomes.