David Drakakis-Smith and Philip T. Kivell
Food is the most important item in the expenditure of the individual and the family. Most estimates put the average proportion of the household budget spent on food in Third World countries at between 50 and 60 per cent of total income (Goldman 1974), although it is much higher for lower income groups (Islam 1982; Lam 1982). Given the low and erratic incomes of large numbers of urban families, many face serious nutritional problems.
In many cases this situation has been exacerbated by inefficiencies within the distribution and marketing system, by the inability or unwillingness of some local producers to respond to new market demands, and by the increasing trend towards food imports in many Third World countries (McGee 1974; MacLeod and McGee 1988). In part, this situation has resulted from the encouragement of export-orientated agriculture at the expense of indigenous self-sufficiency in food, but the penetration of domestic food markets by overseas commodities has also increased. This latter trend has partly been the consequence of direct colonialism with food imports meeting the dietary preferences of expatriate administrative or commercial groups. It has subsequently been reinforced by the westernisation of indigenous elites, and by aggressive advertising and marketing by multi-national companies (MacLeod and McGee 1988).
The impact of the increasing food imports has been particularly felt in urban areas where the consumption of such commodities tends to be higher. The greater purchasing power of the wealthier households and their trend-setting behaviour largely determine urban consumer patterns and the consequent retail response, irrespective of the preferences of the larger numbers of urban poor. The corollary of this is that it reduces the incentives and possibilities for commercial marketing of traditional foodcrops. As Harriss (1982) has noted, in this respect, the current commercialisation of indigenous production is rarely to the benefit of