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Market Opportunities, Risks and Failures

  • David Hall-Matthews

Abstract

This chapter examines the way in which agricultural markets affected peasant producers in Ahmednagar district, from the period of the cotton boom engendered by the American civil war, through the global recession of the 1870s to the period of famine crisis and its aftermath. An attempt is made to contrast the necessary conditions for market-led growth with those prevailing in the district at the time. The aim is to ask whether, in a poor dryland area, market forces helped or hindered smallholders. One of the effects of the famine crisis from 1876 to 1878 was an exponential rise in district foodgrain prices, from an average jowar price of one rupee three annas (l/16th of a rupee) per maund (80 seers) in 1873–74 to four rupees, two annas and six pice (l/12th of an anna) in 1877–78.’ This common famine phenomenon was at once the cause of widespread entitlements failure and, according to contemporary economic logic, an incentive for private trade to bring in sufficient food to prevent starvation. Yet, despite the opening of relief works, 66 per cent excess mortality was recorded in Ahmednagar during the famine as well as extensive emigration.2 Market forces were not entirely successful, therefore, in alleviating famine. But did they make it less — or more — likely to occur? Can this famine be linked, directly or indirectly, to the opening up of rural markets, or did it occur in spite of improved profits for some individuals?

Keywords

Free Trade Market Opportunity Transport Facility Civil Court Relief Work 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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© David Hall-Matthews 2005

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  • David Hall-Matthews

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