Volume 46 Number 182,
July-September 2015

The Local Agrifood System of Rice in the State of Morelos. Development and Territorial Governance, Jessica Tolentino and María del Carmen del Valle, Humanities Coordinating Office–UNAM, Mexico, 2014.

This book is one of a three-volume collection that includes some of the results of the PAPIIT IT projects, "On Local Agrifood Systems and Territorial Development Policies. A Proposal for Governance," and the National Science and Technology Council (Conacyt) Basic Science project, "Governance of Local Agrifood Systems. Territorial Development Policies."

The type of analysis in this book draws on the shift in the approach to territorial studies in the 1990s, which, according to the authors, put forth the idea that territorial growth is dependent on the unique nature of its conditions and dynamics. From these reflections emerged the theoretical proposal of Local Agrifood Systems (LAS), a complex system that takes into account such aspects as quality food, territory, culture, and the value of local know-how.

In this context, the text examines the approach and theoretical assertions of local agrifood systems and governance in the case of rice production in the state of Morelos, specifically, in the municipality of Jojutla de Juárez.

The rice produced in this territory, according to the book, is classified as some of the highest-quality rice both within Mexico and internationally. This is mainly due to two factors: one, the specific characteristics of the soil and climate in the territory, and two, an ongoing series of endogenous and organizational processes involving relationships among diverse actors in the productive system, which helped the region obtain, in February of 2012, a Designation of Origin for its rice.

The hypothesis proposed in this text is that the collective actions of rice producers to obtain the Designation of Origin have created governance processes that have established new rules for local organization and space. To demonstrate this, the authors address the issue with two key objectives: one, to identify the governance processes that made it possible to obtain the Designation of Origin, and two, to understand the current nature of organization and coordination among the diverse actors of the rice production system in the region analyzed.

The book is divided into five sections. The first develops the conceptual theory of local agrifood systems and, specifically, the topic of governance to generate institutional agreements to transform territories.

The second section of the text begins to highlight the nutritional and caloric benefits of rice, as well as the vast variety of products made from rice, both natural and industrialized. To support this analysis, the authors provide very useful data to contextualize the trends in global and national rice production. One of these data points, which is a good representation of the problems facing national rice production, is that in 1990, national production accounted for 70% of national consumption, while imported products only contributed 28%. By 2011, national production was only able to meet 21% of the domestic demand. In other words, 79% of the rice was imported. In light of this situation, we must ask ourselves the following question: what factors have pushed Mexico to become the number one importer of unmilled rice? Part of the answer resides in the fact that rice production is one of the activities most impacted by the neoliberal policies put in place by the federal government.

The third section analyzes the unique case of rice production in the state of Morelos and, even more specifically, the Jojutla de Juárez community. It points out that the Mexican Regulations stipulate that as of 2005, three types of rice in the national territory are to be exclusively produced in the state of Morelos, as this state produces the highest-quality product. Similarly, the section describes key figures in the agrifood rice chain, principally the farmers who plant the rice, the harvesters, and the mill or company that is in charge of commercializing the rice. It also illuminates the social groups that participate in the system. There is a complex web of relationships woven among these figures and they are very well described in the text. Together, they generate collective actions, which translate into the social capital that has given rise to, among other accomplishments, the Designation of Origin.

The fourth section depicts the process to achieve the Designation of Origin in the state of Morelos for rice, a rather complicated series of events that took place for over ten years, and identifies three elements of the local agrifood system that made possible this designation:1) the features of the soil and climate,2) the genetic traits of the varieties released by INIFAP that gave rise to the high-quality rice in Morelos, and3) the collective efforts made by producers since the 1990s. Here the authors stress that the governance process gave rise to the organization of key players in the Agrifood System and drove the collective institutional agreement that pushed for the establishment of a rice production regulatory body: the Rice Regulatory Council.

The fifth section documents a series of achievements, problems and challenges that the authors identified for the case study. The achievements include:1) the coordination of relationships in the territory that gave rise to governance,2) the fact that know-how is widely spread among the actors and, last but not least,3) the fact that the region was able to develop collective efforts and coordinate among the various figures involved in the productive system. Some of the problems include the following:1) high production costs and low prices,2) the aging of producers,3) the sale of ejidos (communal lands) to build housing developments, and4) deficiencies in water supply and water purification due to urban sprawl.

By way of conclusion to the information provided on the governance process by which the designation of origin was achieved, the authors invite readers to continue studying this topic, not only by learning about and documenting information, but also with a more active approach, by directly engaging to support producers in the region.

Finally, it would seem that this book could have a favorable impact in at least three ways. First, it could be a boon for similar projects seeking to study rice in this same region or other regions in Mexico, as it provides rather important data and statistical information that should be taken into account. Second, it could serve as a guide for other projects, because the theoretical and conceptual approach in this text could help resolve other cases to analyze. Third, the book could serve as a reference for public policymakers involved with the rice system, which could prompt better public policy decision-making, making the outcome of this research have a direct impact on the quality of life for rice producers in the region in question.

Alejandro Ramos
Institute of Library Sciences Research and Information – unam

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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