, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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Soy King and Wheat Queen: The meaning of leading monocultures in agrarian change in Brazil and Russia
Paulo Niederle, Alexander Kurakin, Alexander Nikulin, Sergio Schneider

Last modified: 2018-12-13


The Food Regime approach was projected as a historical method of “incorporated comparison” (McMichael, 1990). Nevertheless, this comparison of the role of agriculture in the world-system has led several scholars to overemphasize an excessively unitary and coherent global food regime. While recognizing this approach offers historical-comparative analytical tools to understand global trends, this paper suggests that Russian and Brazilian agrarian development put under question some statements of the food regime approach. The contemporary insertion of both countries in the global markets, suggests some divergences in their positioning in the food regime genealogy. In order to do this, the paper focuses on the production and export of soy and wheat. Although these commodities are not representatives of the entire agrarian economy of Brazil and Russia, it allows us to compare some of the most important strategies they have developed not only for international trade, but also in terms of domestic markets. Firstly, we briefly discuss the historical routes Russia and Brazil have taken concerning the agricultural development and their insertion in global food markets. After that, we analyze the radical changes that followed the Russian perestroika and the Brazilian re-democratization processes in the end of the 1980s, and, in both cases, the consolidation of neoliberal policies in the 1990s. In the subsequent section, we focus on the turn both countries have experienced in direction to a ‘neo-developmental State’, which maintained the export-oriented policies for the agribusiness, but tried to conciliate it with domestic food security and sovereignty policies. Finally, we conclude that, while Russia and Brazil have followed different trajectories over the time, in recent decades there have been important convergences in terms of State strategies to boost a commodity export-oriented economic growth model by supporting large domestic and foreign corporations. However, those commonalities do not allow us to define a neoliberal food regime. On the contrary, it suggests that the contemporary period could be better defined as the moment of paradigmatic crisis in which two or more food regimes coexist.


Food regime; Agriculture; Russia; Brazil; Commodities

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