ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Inflections in Agricultural Evolution

Contemporary Commodity Complexes and Transactional Forms in Interior Tamil Nadu

This paper examines the emergence of specific commodity complexes and transactional forms in eight interior districts in Tamil Nadu focusing on gherkins, marigold, broiler, cotton and papaya. Their growing importance is a response to the structural changes in the larger economy and the contextual constraints on agriculture in the region. It posits that this phenomenon represents an inflection in the trajectory of agricultural growth in the region because of three distinct features. First, the new commodity complexes have strong links to agribusinesses and global markets. Second, downstream players exert an unprecedented influence and control over production practices. Third, the need for control over quality demands particular transactional forms such as contract farming. The paper argues that despite some economic gain, challenges of a different kind emerge and the normative implications of these changes are as yet unclear.

This work was supported fi nancially by the American Institute of Indian Studies’ Junior Research Fellowship (2006), IFPRI-New Delhi Offi ce, the Borlaug-Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program Fellowship (2008), the AAEA Foundation’s Chester McCorkle Scholarship (2008) and the Ithaca Presbyterian International Student Fellowship (2007). I thank Vivek Srinivasan, M Chandrasekaran, Mahendran Kandaswamy, Jothibasu, Subramaniam, M Bhoominathan, Arun Kumar, S M Suriyakumar, J Chellakumar, S Vijayaraghavan and the students and faculty of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore), Bishop Heber’s College, St Joseph’s College (Trichy), and Urumu Dhanalakshmi College (Trichy) for their valuable assistance during the course of my fi eld research. I thank the editors of this issue for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Interviews with agribusiness representatives were conducted on the condition of confi dentiality, and interviewees and the fi rms they represent are not named.

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