Agricultural modernisation in Colombia 1936-1990 : markets, institutions and technology in sugar, banana and potato production
This study analyses the factors associated with rural modernisation between 1936 and 1990 and places them in an international context. It focuses on the production of three commodities-sugar, bananas and potatoes. The approach departs from orthodox neo-classical analysis, which maintains that markets are the central agency responsible for change, and argues that institutions, the nature of the crop, technology, labour and land tenure as well as markets determined the path of agrarian transformation. This argument is sustained by considering scale- and capital-bias in agrarian technology, patterns of land usage and the changing role of labour in the productive process. The three commodities studied are regionally specific, sugar in the Cauca Valley, bananas in the Magdalena Valley and the Gulf of Uraba and potatoes in the departments of Boyaca and Cundinamarca. Developments within these regions are presented with reference to appropriate national and international trends. For the sugarmill owner, informal institutions and political links assisted in obtaining machinery and inputs. For the banana exporter, links with international markets and capital availability allowed them quickly to establish production and trade. For potato growers, private local initiative and indirect state programmes fostered development. With bananas and sugarcane most changes to the productive process were labour and land saving. Nonetheless, labour remained an important aspect of cultivation and harvesting and some methods reverted to more labour intensive production with the passage of time. Moreover, low-cost techniques played an important role for all three crops throughout the modernisation process. The research proves that though relative prices have an influence on production, existing land usage structures, institutional arrangements, technical change absorbtion, and capital-bias distorted market prices and resulted in paths to modernisation that were less than optimal.