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Market networks and marketing behaviour : the organization of trade in southern Veracruz, Mexico Scarnell, Aida Rosalind

Abstract

This thesis arises out of a concern for the continuing disparity in the levels of development between the Western World, or developed countries and the Third World or less developed countries. Among the most disadvantaged axe the rural populations who constitute a high proportion of the population of Third World countries. In spite of the fact that the peasant sector is being increasingly drawn into the national economy tnrough the market system, there appears to be no concomitant rise in the standard of living and rural poverty persists in much of the Third World. The extent to which peasant farmers gain or lose through market participation depends largely on the form and structure of the market system, that is on the form taken by the network of trade flows and exchange centres and on the nature of relations between buyers and sellers. The primary objective of this thesis is to describe and analyze the historical development of the market system for the distribution of foodstaples produced by the peasant sector in southern Veracruz, Mexico since the turn of the century. It is argued that a dendritic-type market system, in which vertical flows predominate over horizontal exchange, developed in response to the demand for foodstaples from the urban industrial centres of Mexico. The lack of a well developed transportation network and the general inaccessibility of the region allowed a small group of merchants to dominate and control trade during the early half of the century. Hecent improvements in transportation and communication have facilitated the penetration of the area by outside buyers, causing a change in the spatial and structural organization of trade. The spatial distribution of the rural population, the system of production and changes in land use are also factors that have been instrumental in the particular formation of the market system. Pieldwork for this thesis was conducted during 1975 in six municipalities in southern Veracruz using inductive methods. Most of the data were derived from interviews with peasant farmers and traders, or middlemen, based within the field area, and substantiated further through participant observation, interviews with various public officials, politicians and prominent members of the conmiunity, and through bibliographic research. In evaluating the impact of changes in the market system on the local economy, it would appear that the marketing opportunities for peasant producers have improved only marginally. Peasants continue to sell their produce to middlemen at prices below that of the guaranteed minimum price set by the government. Truckers entering the region from major urban centres are reluctant to engage in numerous transactions with small scale producers, and prefer to deal with local middlemen.

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