economic and social upgrading
in global production networks

Sector Overview: Agro-foods

A dozen beautiful roses at a knock-down price in winter. Sounds like a bargain – but what’s in it for the Kenyan producer and farm worker?

Kenya, female labouref

Exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers from developing countries have grown steadily since the early 1990s. Agro-foods now represent over 20% of world agricultural exports and generate more than $2 billion per annum for sub-Saharan African states.

New opportunities have been created for farmers and workers. What are the benefits to workers - often women, employed on a casual basis? What challenges do small holders face in accessing supermarket value chains and meeting rising quality standards?

Key research focus areas:
  • A fairer deal for smallholders. How can small-scale producers reap the benefits of fairer trade and better working conditions? These could also impact positively on dependents and local communities. What role can the private sector play?
  • Supporting vulnerable workers. Exploring conditions for casual and seasonal workers in agro-foods global production networks (GPNs). How does their involvement in this sector affect their well-being? What can be done to provide better working conditions and labour standards? Who should be involved in protection of low-paid women workers, migrants, ethnic minorities, and child labourers?
  • Regional trade. Examining the shift in agro-food GPNs, in light of rising consumer demand and growth of regional trade within the South, particularly looking at the role of regional supermarkets. How much influence do supermarkets buyers have in Africa, Asia and Latin America (for example Shoprite operating across Africa). How is this affected by trade agreements?
  • Private standards & trade rules. Understanding the impact of supermarket standards and formal trade rules on poorer producers and workers. Strict food safety and certification procedures can raise costs for producers. How can supermarkets provide consumer assurance whilst integrating poorer producers and vulnerable workers into their production networks on better terms?
Research Contacts:

Mansueto de Almeida & Stephanie Barrientos

Useful resources