Plantation Agriculture's Discontents

Recently, Chiquita Banana was fined $27 million by the US Justice Department after paying protection money to Colombian guerrillas (according to the United States government they are terrorists).  Obviously, it is reprehensible that a US company should support an organization that kidnaps, murders, and traffics in narcotics.  The issue is now closed, because Chiquita closed their operations there in 2004, but this story is one dark blot on a larger tapestry of context.  For years, some foreign investments in Latin America, especially in plantation agriculture like Chiquita’s operations have created a negative backlash.  Some claim that open-ended trade policies and laissez-faire economics create jobs and prosperity, but others claim that foreign companies only create predatory working conditions, exploitive in nature, that lack any hallmarks in development.  They see the post World War II neoliberal trade policies as a form of colonialism.  The case is complex, considering the fact that India and China have had success in adapting to the increasingly connected world.  

Still, in consideration of plantations, Banana Republics tend to remain Banana Republics.  They are at once a symbol of comparative advantage and the problems involved.  Yes, Latin American nations may be able to produce cheaper coffee, sugar, bananas, corn, and potatoes than other nations, but the exportation does little for most workers, who spend their lives with few skills and low wages.  It does much for those in power, though.  I’ve gathered some interesting reads here.

  • The first is about Plantation Agriculture in general, and describes how the system doesn't creat the proper infrastructure to create an industrial base.  You need JSTOR access to read it. 
  • Our second describes the story of coffee, from its colonial and mercantile roots to the modern day economy.
  • Finally, The Impacts of Banana Plantation Development focuses on the environmental result of plantation agriculture. 
  • The success of Facebook may mean it will be translated, design intact, into other markets

I’ll try to keep this page updated with more and better sources in the future.

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