Financialization and the Transformation of Agro-food Supply Chains

A Political Economy
01 Enero 2013
Paper

This article documents the rise of finance in food provisioning. It queries the role of financialization in the contemporary food crisis and analyzes its impacts upon power structures and the distribution of wealth within and along the agro-food supply chain.

This article documents the rise of finance in food provisioning. It queries the role of financialization in the contemporary food crisis and analyzes its impacts upon power structures and the distribution of wealth within and along the agro-food supply chain. A systematic treatment of key links in the supply chain – namely, farmland, agricultural inputs, agricultural risk, grain trading, food manufacturing, and food retailing – reveals four key insights: (1) the financialization of food and agriculture has blurred the line between finance and food provisioning; (2) financialization has reinforced the position of food retailers as the dominant actors within the agro-food system, though they are largely subject to the dictates of finance capital; (3) financialization has intensified the exploitation of food workers, increasing their workload while pushing down their real wages and heightening the precarity of their positions; and (4) small-scale farmers have been especially hard hit by financialization, as their livelihoods have become even more uncertain due to increasing volatility in agricultural markets, they have become weaker vis-à-vis other actors in the agro-food supply chain, and they face growing competition for their farmland. Given the regressive impacts of contemporary financialization, readers are asked to envision an alternative approach to finance food provisioning.

S. Ryan Isakson is an Assistant Professor of International Development Studies and Geography at the University of Toronto. His research and teaching interests are in the political economy of food and agrarian transformation, particularly in Latin America. He has conducted research on peasant livelihoods and the cultivation of agricultural biodiversity, land reform, agro-food certification, and compensation for environmental services.

Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.