[Marxism] Vietnamese economic "success"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 25 09:16:29 MDT 2006

(Going through back issues of the Counterpunch print edition, I came across 
a journal Alex Cockburn kept while on tour in India. He refers to the 
farming crisis in Kerala, which has led to a spate of suicides, as a 
reaction to the collapse of subsidies, the expanded role of middlemen and 
the "World Bank's subsidy to Vietnam whose cheap and inferior pepper comes 
to Sri Lanka, a free port, and then into Kerala whose Malabar pepper is the 
finest in the world." This is not the first time that I have heard Vietnam 
described as having negative economic effects on other countries relying on 
agro-exports. Gerard Greenfield has written about Vietnam coffee exports 
undercutting exports from traditional outlets in the West. Which leads to 
the observation made by Hart-Landsberg and Burkett that China's success has 
come at other countries' failure since capitalism, after all, is a zero sum 


Vietnam spoils Indian pepper party


KOLKATA: The continuing dominance of Vietnam in the global black pepper 
market has prevented India from meeting its export target for '05-06. 
Against a target of 20,000 tonnes, India managed to export only 15,000 
tonnes of black pepper in FY06 of which, 5,000 tonnes are of high-grade 
Malabar variety of Indian origin.

While bulk of the remaining 10,000 tonnes are made of average quality 
Indian black pepper in whole, which is again a blend of cheaper varieties 
of pepper, imported from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Facing stiff competition from Vietnam, India has exported just 5,000 tonnes 
of high-grade Malabar-1 variety in '05-06. The main reason is that India 
just could not sell the variety below $1,650 a tonne as against a price 
band of $1,200-$1,300, at which Vietnam has been selling its pepper, which 
is considered to be far more inferior to the Indian variety.

"Though India enjoys a niche market for that high-quality pepper in the US 
and Japan, such a wide price differential with cheaper Vietnamese varieties 
is gradually putting pressure on this market," a Kochi-based exporter said. 
Even as India strives to stay in the world market by offering cheaper 
varieties with an assortment of average grade blended pepper, it has failed 
to beat Vietnam in that category too for not being able to offer it below 
$1,600 per tonne, an industry analyst said.

This shows that India still remains incompetitive to cheap varieties of 
black pepper, coming from Vietnam and Sri Lanka, even after availing of 
export subsidy.

That's why, the export subsidy, which has been extended for one more year 
in the '06-07, has not induced Indian exporters to go on for booking export 
contracts on a long-term basis, the exporter said.

The Centre, in order to dispose of a carryover stock of 60,000 tonnes of 
black pepper, accumulated between '01 and '05, has agreed to provide export 
subsidy at $110 per tonne on international freight and $45 a tonne on 
internal freight.

The exporters' reluctance to pitch for more export is manifest in their 
offtake of black pepper from auctions held by the Kerala government. The 
state government in a bid to provide minimum support price to pepper 
growers had procured last year some 5,000 tonnes of the spice at Rs 75 per kg.

But given the depressed market conditions at home and abroad, the spice did 
not fetch more than Rs 71 per kg in the auctions. Even at this lower price, 
exporters bid for only 1,000 tonnes of black pepper for shipment.



March 2002
By Gerard Greenfield

"We hope that it is feasible to use coffee beans as fuel."
--Manfredo Topke, President, National Coffee Growers Association (Anacafe)

"Hunger is what pushed us here."
--Euxenio Rugama, Nicaraguan coffee plantation labourer in a protest march 
from Matagalpa to Managua in August 2001


On May 24, 2001, 14 young Mexican immigrants died in the Arizona desert 
while attempting to enter the US to find work. Of the 14 who died, six were 
bankrupted coffee farmers from the state of Veracruz. They were among an 
estimated 300,000 coffee farmers in Mexico who have been forced to leave 
their land in search of work. These deaths - directly linked to the 
collapse of world coffee prices - symbolise the desperation and sense of 
crisis faced by small coffee farmers and coffee plantation workers 
throughout the region, and the world.

In Nicaragua hundreds of unemployed coffee workers and their families began 
a different journey - marching from Matagalpa to Managua to protest the 
destruction of their livelihoods and to demand government support for small 
farmers. Nearly 400,000 families in Matagalpa are dependent on wages paid 
by 44,000 coffee growers. As the price of coffee continues to decline (down 
64% in two years), these families face even greater poverty.

World coffee prices have fallen to their lowest level in 32 years. Before 
this price collapse coffee was the world's largest traded primary commodity 
after oil. An estimated 60 million people make their livelihood from 
coffee, and that livelihood - precarious and impoverished even in better 
times - is now under threat.

In El Salvador the drop in coffee prices, combined with the devastation 
caused by the January 2001 earthquake, left more than 30,000 coffee workers 

In East Timor income from coffee production fell by 35%, affecting 40,000 
families who rely directly on coffee growing for their livelihood.

In Indonesia the selling price for a kilogram of coffee beans fell to 
Rp.3,000/kg, more than the cost of production at Rp.4,000/kg. In 
coffee-growing regions such as Lampung, Sumatra, small farmers were plunged 
deeper into debt.




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