Philip H. Howard, 2016, Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who controls what we eat?
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I have an introductory economics textbook on my shelves that uses as an example of perfect competition “Agricultural markets”; I doubt it is the only such text to use this example. The purpose of the book under review, on one level, is to provide a comprehensive challenge to this perception. At every stage, from seed to supermarket, from farm to fast food outlet, it is challenged. In fact, the author argues, these markets are increasingly concentrated into relatively few firms, although often the level of concentration is not apparent.
This is unashamedly an exercise in Political Economy, focusing on the questions of how concentration is changing in the food system and what enables or constrains the goals of dominant firms. The theme is that all such markets are becoming more concentrated, and that this is to be deplored. For much of the time, the focus is on the US market, but occasionally, the scope is worldwide. The book covers retailing, distribution, packaged foods, commodity...