Of Pirates and Moneylenders: Product Market Competition and the Depth of Lending relationships in a rural market in Chile
It is often suggested that interlinked and monitored loan contract terms such as those used by trader-lenders in rural markets serve as collateral substitutes and therefore should benefit asset-poor borrowers in particular. Yet, empirically this is not always true. For example, most of the new monitored finance from contract farming firms and agro-industry traders during Chile's recent agricultural boom went to medium and large commercial farmers and traditional forms of monitored finance for collateral poor farmers from informal trader-moneylenders actually may have declined. Based on interviews and historical accounts of this market and the analysis of a theoretical model, this paper argues that lenders may have been forced to reduce tied-credit to small farmers in several crops because increased product market competition exacerbated the problem of "pirates sales'' or post-harvest opportunistic default. This further restricted the already narrow set of enforceable property claims upon which monitored credit contracts to solve ex-ante moral hazard contracting problems could have been fashioned. This problem was avoided in crops where product markets are more concentrated and in export activities where crop liens are easier to establish with better capitalized farmers. The model points to an important connection between the nature of market competition and the depth of lending relationships that appears to be important in many other contexts.
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