The concept of the goods famine refers to excess demand (at prevailing prices) for industrial goods in the Soviet Union during the latter half of the 1920s. The importance of this excess demand can only be understood within the context of the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1920s and the underlying forces leading to excess demand. Specifically, the goods famine was an outgrowth of the Scissors Crisis and state policies relating to this episode.
Specifically, in the middle and late 1920s, the quicker recovery of agricultural production relative to industrial production meant that increases in the demand for industrial goods could not be met, an outcome characterized as the goods famine. State policy was ultimately successful in forcing a reduction of the prices of industrial goods. The concern was that a goods famine might drive rural producers, unable to purchase industrial goods, to reduce their grain marketings. This was viewed as a critical factor limiting the possible pace of industrialization.
The goods famine is important to the understanding of the changes implemented by Stalin in the late 1920s. Moreover, these events relate to economic issues such as the nature and organization of the industrial sector (e.g., monopoly power), state policies in a semi-market economy, and most important, the nature of peasant responses to market forces when facing the imperatives of an industrialization drive.
See also: agriculture; economic growth, soviet; industrialization, soviet; new economic policy; peasant economy; scissors crisis
Robert C. Stuart