The Social Security System (which comprised assistance for the most vulnerable, specifically old people, disabled people, single mothers, children and youth) and the ration system had been established in 1979 and 1962 respectively, and provided a solid food security structure during the challenging years of the early 1990s. During this period, this equitable form of food distribution and controlled sale, or canasta basica, was the only market that the state was able to maintain. An increasing number of food products became rationed: 19 rationed items in the 1980s increased to virtually all food items in the early 1990s (Murphy, 1999). Its composition also changed: animal protein content was reduced and vegetable protein and high-calorie foods increased (Felipe, 1995).
During this period, the state managed to maintain its purchase contracts with farmers so as to guarantee the availability of rationed products. At least 80 per cent of the main crops produced were contracted in this way (Rodriguez, 1998). Agricultural products would be collected by Acopio at the farm, or delivered by the farmer to the local Acopio centre, and then transported to centralized urban markets from where the goods would be transferred to neighbourhood distribution centres which were specialized for crops, meat or dairy (Enriquez, 1994).
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