Social Scientist. v 18, no. 210-11 (Nov-Dec 1990) p. 102.

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Declining Food Production per Head : A Pervasive Problem of Developing Economies

In his paper on 'Structural Characteristics of the Mexican Economy 1942-82', Mrityunjoy Mohanty has given an overview of Mexican economic development and has rightly devoted considerable attention to the agricultural sector, which after a period of fairly rapid expansion from the 1950s to the mid-1960s, entered a phase of crisis during the decade up to the mid-1970s, turning Mexico into a net importer of basic foodgrains and contributing to the balance of payments problem. Beginning in early 1980 under the Lopez-Portillo administration, the SAM strategy was aimed at achieving food self-sufficiency by 1985. While the short-run growth results were impressive, by 1983 growth began to decline and under de la Madrid, SAM was dropped altogether. Instead, a policy of promoting exports of commercial crops and cut-back in ejidal investment, accelerated the process of import-dependence for food during the second half of the 1980s. Mexico was importing 4.87 m. tonnes of foodgrains by 1987 compared to 2.88 m. tonnes in 1974; the index of food production had dropped to 97 for 1985-87 compared to the base of 100 for 1978-81; given a nearly 3 per cent rate of population growth the decline in per capita foodgrains production was quite substantial. The purpose of this brief note is to underline certain aspects of the inter-crop inter-product and spatial pattern of capitalist agricultural development in Mexico which are of some interest to us in India.

There appears to be a fairly general and pervasive problem of agricultural growth in underdeveloped countries industrialising under the capitalist path, of which Mexico is but an especially striking example. This is that capitalist growth produces severe social and regional imbalances and through increasing commercialisation leads to a decline of per capita food production and even availability decline, for the mass of rural peasants and hired workers: and this can happen even when the overall rate of agricultural growth outstrips popula-

* Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 11-12, November-December 1990

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