O Mercado carioca e seu sistema de abastecimento


  • Bertha Koiffman Becker


Rio de Janeiro - Estado, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Comércio, Geografia econômica, Abastecimento de alimentos


The urban food supply system, which comprehends a complex relationship among production. storage, transportation, commercialization and consumption of food, expresses the stage of economical development of a country, since each and every component of the system presents its own characteristics and dynamic inherent to this stage.

            The food supply system of Rio de Janeiro as well as the problems that it brings about are a consequence of the present situation of a country whose structure is built around a mercantile agricultural economy and upon which is implanted an industrial economy, crystallized in the cities which have been causing the subordination of the ample sectors of the rural life, to its own needs.

            Thus, a basic contradiction is established. On one hand we witness a rapid urban expansion, one which demands a bigger and more varied production inland. On the other side there remains an agrarian, commercial and transportation structure aimed, through the centuries, at export, within which may be found ancient forms of exploitation arid social relationship as forces of inertia that resist the changes that have to be made to meet the new demands of the cities.

            It comes down, therefore, to study the market as to its power of changing the old structure and the way in which this structure responds to the market.

            Due to its conditions of growth the Rio de Janeiro market though dynamic and in process of expansion, presents certain peculiarities which hinder its acting power over the production areas: a very unequal distribution of income among the urban population which owes its growth mainly to the rural exodus and which has, therefore, as a general rule, a very low purchasing power and lives on a very poor and limited diet; a great number of children in the general population; as they belong to the lower economical classes they reduce the consumption capacity of the market; temporary retractions in the purchasing power of the population due to the inflationary process which causes prices of goods to shoot up very quickly while salaries are not readjusted at the same rate.

            Because of these characteristics the Rio de Janeiro market presents rather restricted and highly unstead demand; it is more capable of promoting a speculative production than offering security for a basic transformation in the methods of agricultural production.

            Since they an established as a function of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo also, the production areas are marked by their distance and discontinuity in relation to the Rio de Janeiro's market and by the fact that there still exists, in the area most directly attached to Rio de Janeiro, an agriculture of low productivity a fact that indicates a weak rate of integration in the market.

            In view of the historical moment which the region close to the city was organized, there remain in its present structure great properties and production relationships which prevent it from producing at the rate required to meet the expansion of the city. Making use of important portuary, commercial and railway organizations, a heritage of its mercantile past, the city, as of dense highway system now recently organized as well as it expands, look for supplies in more distant areas. A progressive growth of production areas can be felt as they go more and more inland, since they are directly Jinked to the spots of fertile land of plains and forest areas.

            In this way, more than 50% of vegetables and ex-meat consumed by the city comes nowadays from the state of São Paulo. Its milk supply area, extends itself along the Rio-Bahia road up to the town of Teófilo Otôni. As to cereals, as well as other storable goods, although mainly furnished by Rio Grande do Sul, Triângulo Mineiro and Zona da Mata, are also brought from several parts of the country. The increase in production due to the extension in cultivated area makes for more expensive goods whose prices get higher because of the cost of transportation.

            The distance and discontinuity of production areas influence the traffic and commercialization of merchandise, already faulty due to the resistance put forth by the traditional means of transportation and forms of commerce. Until recently, because of difficulty of railway and mar1time transportation in serving new production areas and of the low capitalization of planters, their products went through several intermediates before getting to the machinery men, local wholesalers, which are settled in privileged spots of better circulation and with great possibilities of storage and beneficiation. Once they were concentrated in these spots, they were acquired only by city wholesalers which constituted the most powerful sector of commercialization. The recent industrial development of the country brought forth deep changes to the commercialization of goods. Thanks to the speed, flexibility and safety offered by the truck, the great production centers keep their representatives in town and they ask directly for the merchandise in the production zones, thereby breaking the wholesaler's monopoly. On the other side, new buyers can get to the production centers; by means of the representatives or by agents retailers industrial enterprises, cooperatives take away the strength of said monopoly by competing with wholesalers. Only cooperatives and great planters get to surpass all the intermediates.

            Inside of the city the distribution of goods is also undergoing some changes. The traditional concentration of wholesale and special retail commerce in the center of the city, a heritage from a mercantile phase, is unable to attend to the present expansion of the city and is giving way to a spacial dispersion. The very forms of commerce are changing. Meanwhile wholesale business gets weaker and tries to survive by adapting itself to retail, the latter gets stronger by means of organization into powerful financial concentrations: big retailers and super-markets. These new American shapes, as opposed to the former ones of european influence, spread unequally through the neighbourhoods and suburbs of the city, following the density and purchasing power of the population.

            The structural resistance put forth by the sources of production, by transportation, by the commerce and by the market itself, makes for the establishment of a vicious circle: the price of goods is too high for the purchasing power of the market; which forces a moderate expansion of which, in turn, diminishes its capacity of activating the production areas.

            The problems of food supply to the city can not be solved through the limitation of prices alone - which attacks only the final and most superficial step of a gigantic system - because they are the result of a very complex process; only a planned governmental action comprehending a harmonious development of an its components will be of any effect.