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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Market for all Farmers: Market Institutions and Smallholder Participation


The transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture, often referred to as the commercialization of agriculture, has long been considered an important part of the agrarian transformation of low income economies and a means of ensuring food security, enhanced nutrition, and enhanced incomes. However, in the face of imperfect markets and high transaction costs, smallholders are rarely able to exploit all the potential gains from commercialization. With the objective of better understanding smallholder participation in markets, the paper proceeds in Section 1 to examine the impact of early reforms on smallholder market participation. In Section 2, we characterize the dimensions of smallholder agriculture that constrain market participation. In Section 3, a conceptual framework for understanding market participation through the lens of market institutions is proposed, followed by an exposition to recent efforts to promote market development in Section 4 and an overview of participation through the market institution of a commodity exchange in Section 5, before proceeding to conclusions in Section 6.

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