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Agro-food policies and petty commodity production in Brazil: Some implications of changes in the 1980s

Shiki, Shigeo; (1991) Agro-food policies and petty commodity production in Brazil: Some implications of changes in the 1980s. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The thesis discusses the changes in Brazilian rural social structures in the 1980s, and focuses on the conditions of adaptation of petty commodity producers to the dynamics of agro-industrial capital, underpinned by State policies. Agro-food policies in the 1980s shifted from the collapsed subsidised rural credit incentive to price instruments of regulation, which appeared to be essentially interventionist and conflicting. It is argued that these policy changes did not alter the historical trends of skewed growth, with a concentration of capitalised agriculture in the Centre-South and the poor and traditional Northeast lagging behind. Analysis, including the 1985 Agricultural Census, revealed the upsurge of minifundio farms, and family and temporary labourers in the Northeast and North. It is argued that this resurgence of family labour in tiny minifundios in poor regions and the restoration of precarious land tenures suggests more the effects of conjunctural economic crisis than a new process of structural change. The analysis of technical changes in three commodity systems - soyabean, poultry and beans - pointed to the persistence of family labour and the consolidation of capitalised household producers. In the process of consolidation, the co-operatives emerged as a political force by gaining momentum from economic strength and their social basis constituted by capitalised household producers. In the case of the poultry system, direct integration of petty commodity producers was a crucial factor contributing to the overcoming of the economic crisis. Concentration of capital in this sector occurred with vertical integration and diversification in the processing segment of the system, without altering the small household structure of the farming segment. The relationship between agro-industrialists and petty commodity producers was essentially a relationship between kinds of capital, as opposed to the view that petty commodity producers are virtual household piece workers. The case of the bean, long considered a traditional peasant crop, unveiled an internal social transformation, in spite of stagnant aggregate production and intractable technological shortcomings. A capitalised form of household production also emerged in the process of commoditisation, mostly relying on temporary wage labour, supplied by a labour market to which mostly minifundio pluriactive farmers contributed. The counterpart of these processes was the upsurge of expropriated family labourers, which constituted the most visible social basis for fuelling a renewed demand for agrarian reform, reviving in the 1980s an old and thorny issue. In conclusion, agro-industrial capitals and State policies were determinant 'external' factors in the transformation of the labour process. However, this transformation was only partial, failing to overcome natural constraints, and generalising the industrial labour process.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Agro-food policies and petty commodity production in Brazil: Some implications of changes in the 1980s
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Brazil
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124488
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