By Ferran Garcia
The current food system tends to globalize, corporateize and concentrate. An integrated food system is advancing at great speed throughout the world, acting in coordination and based on three nodes: a certain type of food production, a certain type of marketing and distribution of the same based on large distribution chains and a specific model of food consumption.
"The One Ring. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to draw them all and bind them to darkness "JRR Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings
The current food system tends to go global, corporatize Y to concentrate.
An integrated food system is advancing at great speed and throughout the world, acting in coordination and based on three nodes: a certain type of food production (“global” producers using models derived from the Green Revolution), a certain type marketing and distribution of the same based on the large distribution chains and a certain model of food consumption.
The globalization refers to a kind of "homogenization of diversity", that is, we find the same food products all over the world every time. It is not so much a reduction (which also) as a replication of the same food basket.
We find foods of very different origin scattered throughout all the globalized points of sale on the planet, but almost always the same or very similar.
The corporatization refers to the current trend of the food chain to become an interconnected network between producers, transformers Y dealers which we can call the "global diet". For each food and region the situation is different but they share two important characteristics: on the one hand, these three actors tend to vertically integrate into a kind of capitalist cooperative and to collaborate with each other to obtain certain products of certain characteristics. For example, a large company that produces chicken meat, together with a company that fillets and prepares the meat on trays or manufactures a pre-cooked dish and a large area that sells them to the consumer. This "group of friends" works together and in an integrated way, but at the same time, selectively, marginalizing those who do not have the capacity to act like this. In fact, part of the success of capitalist cooperation is based precisely on excluding the rest: distributors are interested in having a small pool of suppliers who offer what they want and under their conditions, which they can also control through the traceability; Suppliers are not interested in their competition entering the Club de Amigos.
The food sales format determines the characteristics of the entire chain.
Both the producer, the processor, and the distributor are "global". This is so in the forward direction from the field (towards the consumer), but from the backward field we have the sector supplying the necessary resources for the “global” producer (fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, animal breeds, etc.) that also it has those same characteristics of corporatization.
The concentration refers to the fact that there are fewer and fewer of these global "actors" and in that handful of companies it is actually the "bottleneck" where the food chain as a whole is defined.
To exemplify this, let's see some data for the case of livestock
Global Rancher Suppliers
Animal health: 10 companies control 62% of the world market for animal health (mainly vaccines, antibiotics and food additives), the first 3 (Pfizer, Merial and Intervet) 30% (1).
Genetics: Two companies control 64% of poultry genetics in Indonesia (2).
The ISA (Institut de Sélection Animale) corporation, with its acquisitions, affiliations and subsidiaries, now supplies more than 65% of the world brown egg genetics market, 35% of the world white egg market, and 15% % percent of the world's chicken market.
Feed: Four companies control 34% of the animal feed production in the USA3, in Spain a single company controls 25% of the feed production and the first 10 60% (4)
Buyers from the global rancher (processing industry)
In Brazil, 3 companies (Nestlé, Parmalat and Fleichmann Royal) controlled 60% of the milk market in 2003. In 2000, 8 of the top 10 food companies were TNCs, led by Nestlé. The result of this was that in three years (1997-2000) the number of farmers supplying these companies was 35% lower and their size grew by 55%. Nestlé alone removed 26,000 farmers from its list of suppliers in the same period (a 75% reduction)
Nestlé controls 80% of milk production in Peru Tyson is the world's largest meat producer and processor integrator and controls, for example, 25%, 27% and 21% of the powerful North American market for chicken, beef and pig, respectively. Tyson's main customer is the world's largest distribution company Wall-Mart and the No. 1 seller in all sectors also in the world.
Tyson controls 18% of all world chicken exports.
The Danish Crown is a Danish group that rises as the main producer-processor of pork in Europe and controls, for example, 90% of pork in Denmark.
San Miguel Pure Foods controls 50% of the processed meat market in the Philippines. (5)
The Global Rancher Selling Points
In 2004, the sale of 33% of the world's food was controlled by the top 30 distribution companies; just one of them, Wall-Mart (which entered the food business only 14 years ago) sells almost 1 out of every 4 foods sold in the world. (6)
In Europe, it is expected that in 10 years 75% of food sales will be in these establishments, in Spain 85% is already sold in the so-called dynamic channels (super / hypers / discount) (7). In South, Central America and the Caribbean the exact same scheme is followed. The same happens in Southeast Asia and in certain areas of Africa. In all these countries we find the same transnational food distribution companies that constitute the authentic and only “door” of access to the consumer (8), which undoubtedly implies the exclusion of the vast majority of food producers.
Global Rancher Characteristics (9)
The Global Rancher is numerically a minority. They are entrepreneurs who are connected through contracts of a very different nature with the "global food economy" either with the processing industry or even with the same distribution or with both at the same time.
Consequently these "farmers" have become a vital part of agribusiness and the border between the globalized rural world and agribusiness is increasingly blurred.
Only the most capitalized and intensively managed companies can offer the strict "standard" and the product and supply conditions demanded by the distribution sectors.
Its production models are based on the so-called Green Revolution or the Livestock Revolution, and in fact, this production model fits like a glove in this global model and is optimized for it. However, this livestock model, in addition to having serious social implications, has important ecological consequences, constituting a source of worrying environmental pollution (10)
And the rancher, without more?
The type of cattle ranching that has formed the basis of the rural economy in recent years is part of a rural world that is contracting in contrast to the clear expansion of the global one. All the data in different parts of the world tell us with few exceptions that their number is reduced and that either they leave the sector, or they move towards the global rancher, or they “specialize” in productions
"Alternatives" or seek extra income outside the agricultural sector. Currently it is a production "in transit" to others. But numerically it still constitutes a very important part of the rural world. Alongside this livestock in transit we find the vast majority of the world's livestock farmers, with subsistence systems, including pastoralism, in adverse and clearly vulnerable political and economic frameworks. They, together with farmers, constitute in fact and paradoxically, the majority group of the hungry and undernourished in the world.
If we take the productivity ratio of the most intensive "global" producer versus the less industrialized segment, we see that it is close to 2000 to 1. That is, a single person can "produce" what 2000. If we imagine a world of producers
"Global" and without a single farmer or rancher, someone might think that we could feed on some 20 million "global" compared to the current three billion peasants. There are dozens of arguments against, but simply saying that single livestock implies accepting the disappearance of millions of livestock farmers who are already poor among the poor, and the rest of the economic sectors not even in the best of dreams (a growth of 7% per year ) could absorb even 1/3 of these people. (11)
The sustainable family agriculture and livestock on which Food Sovereignty is based is seriously compromised by the unique global agriculture and livestock linked in this global food economy that all governments of the world promote through institutions such as the WTO and the consequent trade liberalization of agriculture and distribution services.
Food must be produced by others, in a different way and for other channels if we want the food paradigm to be different from the one that is clearly expanding.
Ferran Garcia Moreno
Political Advocacy Department
(1) ETC Group, based on data from Animal Pharm Research.
(2) Foreign Agricultural Service, GAIN Reports (annual), Indonesia Poultry and Poultry Products, USDA, Washington DC; CPI (Charoen Pokphand Indonesia) Annual Report 2002 at www.cp.co.id .; PT Japfa Comfeed Annual Reports at www.japfacomfeed.co.id
(3) Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri, Columbia.
Hendrickson and Heffernan, Concentration Of Agricultural Markets, January, 2005, www.foodcircles.missouri.edu/CRJanuary05.pdf
(4) Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Spain
(5) All data taken from Vorley, B (2003). Food, Inc: Corporate Concentration from farm to consumer by Bill Vorley. UK Food Group
(6) Vorley, B. (2003) op. cit.
(7) Expo Retail 2006 Report
(8) Vorley, B. cit
(9) Adapted from Vorley, B (2003). op. cit.
(10) FAO, 2005. Livestock Policies nº 2. Livestock Information and Analysis and Sector Policy Sub-directorate (AGAL), of the Animal Production and Health Division.
(11) Amir, S. (2003) World poverty, pauperization and capital accumulation www.espaimarx.org/pobreza-mundial-pauperizacion-y-a.htm