This paper proposes a theory of sharecropping on the basis of price behavior in agriculture and imperfectly competitive nature of rural product markets. We consider a contractual setting between one landlord and one tenant with seasonal variation of price, where the tenant receives a low price for his output while the landlord can sell his output at a higher price by incurring a cost of storage. We consider two different classes of contracts: (i) tenancy contracts and (ii) crop-buying contracts. It is shown that sharecropping is the optimal form within tenancy contracts and it also dominates crop-buying contracts provided the price variation is not too large. Then we consider interlinked contracts that have both tenancy and crop-buying elements and show that there are multiple optimal interlinked contracts. Finally, proposing an equilibrium refinement that incorporates imperfect competition in the rural product market, it is shown that the unique contract that is robust to this refinement results in sharecropping.
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