Caloric unequal exchange in Latin America and the Caribbean

The existence of an unequal exchange between rich and poor countries has been well studied in the literature, explained by differences in labour costs that were reflected in the prices of traded goods. Research has also demonstrated that the failure to include environmental impacts in prices of traded goods concealed an ecologically unequal exchange. This paper contributes to the discussion with the newly coined concept of caloric unequal exchange that defines the deterioration of terms of trade in food in units of calories. Exports and imports to and from Latin America and the Caribbean are analysed for the period 1961 through 2011 in volume, value, and calories, for different groups of products. The study concludes that although calories exported by the region to the rest of the world are more expensive than those imported, the ratio is deteriorating over time. This trend is found to be dependent of the trading partner involved. The region is helping the rest of the world in supplying their diets at a lower cost. A side result is that globalisation is homogenising diets over time, concentrating most food consumption in a reduced number of products, and therefore increasing interdependency among countries and affecting food security.

Associated space

Latin America and the Caribbean