Accepted paper:

Food quality standards and struggles over the control of the labour process on mushroom farms in Ireland

Author:

Francisco Arqueros (University of Almeria, Spain)

Paper short abstract:

Quality standards represent the way in which retail capital controls the labour process on labour-intensive mushroom farms in Ireland without directly entering production. James C. Scott's theory of domination and resistance will be used to assess growers’ resistance to quality standards.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I explore the link between quality standards and the labour process on mushroom farms in Ireland: how quality standards represent the way in which retail capital control the labour process on farms without directly managing them. We can think about food quality standards as: (1) a system of governance of food chains; (2) a device for the subjection of labour under capital and the introduction of large-scale production methods in small scale, labour-intensive agricultural production. Through quality demands, retailers implement a range of regulations and management techniques to ensure that farmers and their employees work in an exacting and systematic way. In this way, retail capital tries to break the limits that the type of subjection of labour to capital, particularly in contract farming, set to the control of the work process. Farmers see compliance with quality standards as "the way to go" because otherwise their produce would not reach the supermarkets' shelves. It constitutes an advantage in a very tight market. I will consider whether James C. Scott's theory of domination and resistance is useful to assess growers' resistance to quality standards. This paper presents the outcome of extensive fieldwork carried out on mushroom farms in County Monaghan, Ireland, between 2005 and 2006. The Irish mushroom, based on contract growing, was set up in the 1980s. Due to increasing competition, growers expanded production in the 1990s and adopted more "efficient" growing systems and quality standards demanded by large supermarkets chains, where their produce was distributed.

panel P038
Soils, seeds and capitalism: political agronomy and the intimacies of farming