The commercialization of agriculture, and in particular export cropping, has often been blamed as a cause of poor nutrition. Critics contend that if the resources used to produce agricultural exports were used instead to produce food for the local economy,the problem of malnutrition in many countries could be significantly reduced, or even eliminated.
Proponents argue that by exploiting comparative advantage and generating faster growth for the overall economy, export cropping raises incomes and improves nutrition. In order to identify policy measures that can enhance positive and minimize harmful nutrition effects, IFPRI has undertaken research on the process of agricultural commercialization in five specific country contexts. This research report presents the findings for the Philippine case study Approximately 500 corn- and sugar-producing households were surveyed four times at four-month intervals during 1984 and 1985 in one province in Mindanao, Bukidnon, an area primarily engaged in semi subsistence corn production before the establishment of a sugar mill in 1977. The sample included smallholder landowner, tenant, and landless laborer households. Data were collected on landholdings, income sources,expenditure patterns, calorie intakes, and nutritional status. An initial random sample of households, both far away from the sugar mill (households that did not have the opportunity of switching to sugar because of the high cost of transporting cane to the mill) and near to the mill, indicated a serious deterioration in land tenancy patterns as a result of the introduction of sugar.
Whereas landless households accounted for less than 5 percent of households engaged primarily in corn production, nearly 50 percent of households employed in sugar production had no access to land. When households engaged in sugar production were asked to characterize their tenancy status before the introduction of sugar seven years earlier, the pattern of distribution that emerged between owner, share tenant, and landless laborer households was very similar to the present pattern for corn households. Several former corn tenant households had lost access to land when landlords who had decided to grow sugarcane chose to hire labor for the new crop rather than rent out land on ashare-of-harvest basis, as had been the custom with corn. On average, about two-thirds of the labor devoted to corn production is provided by the family and one-third is hired. These fractions between family and hired labor are reversed for sugar production. Women contributed 23 percent of the total labor for corn production, but only 11 percent of the total labor for sugar production.