ESA Working Paper No. 04-16



Identifying the Factors that Influence
Small-scale Farmers’ Transaction Costs in
Relation to Seed Acquisition

An ethnographic case study of maize growing
smallholders in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico

Lone B. Badstue



PDF (314 KB)

Agricultural and Development Economics Division
The Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations



Using an ethnographic approach, this study explores small-scale farmers’ perceived transaction costs in relation to maize seed acquisition in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. These farmers have different needs and require seed of diverse maize types with multiple traits in particular combinations. Formal seed distribution has yet to develop in this region and farmers depend mostly on informal seed sources. Issues of information about maize seed, seed transaction negotiation and enforcement are examined from a small-scale farmer perspective through the use of qualitative data. Results show that farmers’ perceived transaction costs are low to negligible in most cases where seed transactions take place locally, and trust is indicated as a factor which serves to reduce transaction costs to a minimum. Though maybe not a transaction cost in the theoretical sense, the risk of crop failure due to inadequate seed is a main concern for farmers in relation to seed transactions.


© FAO 2004