Carlos Felipe Córdova is a second-year PhD student, based in the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University. He has a strong background in sociology, with experience in carrying out ethnographies along with collaborative research. During that time, he had the opportunity to engage in different spheres of the ongoing struggles of Chilean indigenous communities. Currently, he is attempting to understand from an ethnographic perspective the agrarian structure that underpins the agroproduction of a region devoted to agriculture and characterised by its high indigenous component. Thereby, he is looking at the transition to fruit production as a way to reflect upon the agrarian structure.
Neoliberal mode of production and fruit industry; contestations and adoption of a profitable niche within an indigenous territory in Southern Chile
Chile, alongside other Latin-American countries, stands out as an agrarian commodity producer. Furthermore, under the context of neoliberalism, there is a trend to expand the agrarian frontier around the country by taking advantages of its competitive edges and its know-how acquired during the 80s, which are coupled with the shift of less valuable agro commodities into agrarian commodities with more value in order to meet international demand. The underlying process of making producers switch their crops and become market-orientated is the transition from traditional crops to more profitable ones, such as fruits. Along with a movement from subsistence or petty commodity production towards a mode of production fully-integrated into the market, when adopting these new crops. This transition has been promoted and supported by both the neoliberal agenda and different rural development schemes. Despite fruit production, can be considered as one of the paradigmatic forms of capitalism in rural areas due to its reliance on seasonal wage-labour and its high value on the market. There are an array of barriers emerging that impede fruit production to become fully-established in rural settings. This turn to be more evident when fruit production breakthrough indigenous territory, since their mode of production tend to be linked as a less market-orientated. In this way, this article examines those barriers faced by the indigenous peasants when deciding to embrace high-value agro commodities. Based on a case study in a region of Chile characterised by a high indigenous population and drawing on ethnographic data, the study concludes that the adoption of fruit production has contributed to further differentiation of the countryside and also a resurgence of old customs that permeate how fruit production is taking place.
Affiliation: University of Newcastle