Missed Opportunities and Future Challenges: Globalisation, Small-Farmers and the Expanding Chilean Non-Traditional Fruit Sector
The following research revisits, re-examines and builds on previous and ongoing critical work into the rise of non-traditional fruit exports in Chile. The work is principally concerned with the negative distributional impacts on small-scale producers in light of the country's extensive neoliberal reforms of the mid 1970s and 1980's and their continuation under successive Concertacion governments since 1990. Attention is placed on revisiting and better understanding the phenomenon observed by Murray (1997) ten years earlier, that saw small-scale producers enter into grossly uneven bargaining relationships with large fruit export firms that tended to expose them to a disproportionately high proportion of the risks associated with exporting in the global marketplace. At the time, these processes were shown to be driving many small-scale producers into a cycle of debt- resulting in land concentration and greater inequality in the locality. In the absence of government intervention, it was predicted that these patterns would continue to threaten the livelihood and economic sustainability of the Chilean peasantry. The following dissertation demonstrates that in the ten years since 1994 significant land concentration has indeed continued to take place as predicted within the original research locality, El Palqui. But unlike in the past, where land was dominated by large haciendas, today, it is equally large, capital intensive producers - including a handful of internationally owned export firms - who are progressively extending their grip over the Chilean countryside. In light of these changes, it could therefore be argued that the Chilean countryside is developing a character gravely reminiscent of Chile's pre-reform 'semi-feudal' system. With even those small producers, who have supposedly 'successfully inserted' into the global economy facing serious financial hardship, the future looks bleak for the Chilean peasantry. This thesis argues that the continuation of land concentration is a by-product of successive Chilean governments' persistent failure to assist small-producers during and after the critical transitional phase from an inward oriented development model to an outward oriented export-led model. This failure to act represents a missed opportunity to effectively integrate smaller producers into the export sector in a manner which might have been conducive to growth with equity.