Globalization of Agribusiness & Developing World Food System

Wilkinson (2009): Globalization of
Agribusiness & Developing World
Food System
Key Issues:
1. Metropolitan corporate capital aims at subjugating the
food markets in DW through the global concentration
of agribusiness and food systems of the DW
2. In Emerging economies: national capitalists and the
state play key roles in consolidating urban food systems
Foreign Investments:
1980s and 1990s: MNCs became oligopolies in order to deal
with the end of baby boom and the declining food consumption
in the Core countries- few controlled the market.
Nontraditional exports and new foods -- sea foods, fruits, and
vegetables, from developing countries to metropolitan markets
were initiated to fill the slack.
In the 1980s, patents of genetic crops using biotechnology - DW
accepted patents as a precondition of joining WTO : the seed,
fertilizer, and chemical inputs- especially, all export related agri
sectors sectors in Latin Am were pressured by foreign MNCs.
Foreign Investments (Contd)
Besides input sectors, retail food sector of the South, e.g.,
European corporations, i.e., Carrefour (in 1970s), expanded
their reach in 1990s into DW markets. U.S. Wal-Mart
invested in the convenience and fast food sector.
Concentration in Global Food Systems:
MNCs and oligopolies in agri-food industries and in land and
water resources both for fuel, livestock and people became
the norm in global investment - a result of food insecurity
concerns in world commodity trade.
Significant concentration of control of food and agriculture
:control over 40% many at 70-80% level
Emerging Countries in the Global Agrifood Economy:
DW and the “nutritional transition”, a shift to high animal protein
and veg. fruit diet offered opportunities for the expansion of
domestic food companies in Brazil and
Argentina & Thailand suppliers of white meats (poultry and pigs)
–rise of domestic agribusiness firms—Sadia and Perdigão in
Brazil & Charoen Pokphand Group in Thailand.
In the red meat sector: Brazilian firm JBS/Friboi is the world’s
largest firm
Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group has become the regional
Foreign investment in seafood sector has led to an explosion of
fish, shrimp restaurant chains in the core countries
Brazil in the New Global Agrifood System
Total cultivable hectares: 340 million
2007: largest exporter of:
red meat, poultry, sugar, coffee, and orange juice– leads globally
soybeans, soy meal, and soy oil: 2nd
Corn exports: 3rd
Pig and collton: 4th
Brazil is global leader in domestic agrifood corporations and 3rd
domestic consumer market in the developing world
Strong Domestic Firms emerged since the 20th C: sugar, coffee,
milk, soy and white meats, orange juice for export
Domestic firms consolidated themselves, e.g., Ceval, Sadia, and
Perdigão led in the expansion of animal feed, esp. soybean.
New technologies led to growing soybeans in the savannah fields
Due to deregulation (Washington Consensus) of the 1990s. Foreign
MNCs, e.g., ADM replaced the domestic firms.
Now, most of Brazil’s soy crushing and trade: Four leading global
MNCs—Bunge, Cargill, ADM, and Dreyfus. – they dominate
because of their global control over the key intermediate good, i.e.,
fertilizer input required for seed, grain and oil production.
A result of technological advancement in agriculture:
Biotechnology and the strong foreign MNCs greed to acquire
rights for plants and patent them quickly transformed Brazil’s
private seed sector – now, global MNCs, e.g., Monsanto,
Syngenta, and Dupont, dominate it
Weakens the research system in the public domain
Genes that are strategic are acquired by the giant corporate
Brazil’s social movements and NGOs resist them … yet genetic
seeds dominate soy, corn, cotton and other sectors such patents are
China: The New Focus f or Agribusiness
China not in WTO in the 1990s – therefore had control of
trade and investment flows – no neolib policies imposed on its
The Chinese government policies on its FDIs in joint ventures
with local capital and tech transfer agreements.
Key exports: seafood, fruits and vegetables, processed food
Driven by domestic market from rapid urbanization
2008: Food importer for the first time – in 10 yrs 50% of
global soy importer – FDIs are flowing in for crushing
imported unprocessed grainsderegulation of this market as
China has now joined the WTO
Chinese investments in agifood in Asia, Africa, and Latin America
are for exports to its Chinese domestic market –
Can & will China eventually challenge the hegemonic global MNCs
who now control the global markets?
High-end consumer goods: Chocolate, etc.
Global European MNCs in dairy and drinks have not yet taken over
the regional players: in the Chinese market—President (Taiwan),
Charoen Pokphand (Thailand), Sinar Mas (Indonesia), Kerry
2008: China removed financial incentives for FDIs
China tries to promote agri supply base in Asia, Africa and
LAm to increase its food security.
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