Recently, third-party certification (TPC) has emerged as a significant regulatory mechanism in the global agrifood system. It reflects a broader shift from public to private governance. Traditionally, government agencies were responsible for monitoring food safety and quality standards. However, the globalization of the agrifood system, the consolidation of the food retail industry, and the rise in private retailer standards have precipitated a shift in responsibility for this task to third-party certifiers. This development is reconfiguring social, political, and economic relations throughout the contemporary agrifood system. In discussing the rise of TPC, this paper focuses on the role and implications for three key stakeholder groups: supermarket chains, producers, and non-governmental organizations. We conclude that TPC reflects the growing power of supermarkets to regulate the global agrifood system. At the same time, TPC also offers opportunities to create alternative practices that are more socially and environmentally sustainable.
This paper provides a brief introduction to the evolution and nature of private food safety and quality standards, highlighting the resultant impacts on the structure and of supply chains for agricultural and food products and the challenges posed for processes of agricultural development. It serves as an introduction to a series of papers that provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge regarding private food safety and quality standards in both an industrialised and developing country context. In so doing, it aims to provide a catalyst for further research on this rapidly evolving field of inquiry.
Changes in both farm production and food transport have resulted in the imposition of new levels of environmental costs. This study analyses the full costs of foods in the average weekly UK food basket by calculating the costs arising at different stages from farms to consumers’ plates. Of the 12 commodities assessed, livestock produce contributes the most costs per kg. The external cost of UK agriculture up to the farm gate is estimated to be £1.51 bn yr ; it is calculated that a switch to organic production could lead to avoided costs of £1.13 bn yr . Agricultural and food produce accounts for 28% of goods transported on UK roads, currently imposing estimated external costs of £2.35 bn yr . The contribution made by sea and air transport is currently trivial owing to low volumes. However, road transport to carry food from the shop to home is estimated to impose a further £1.28 bn yr to total external costs. Subsidies not targeted at environmental improvements cost consumers £2.88 bn yr . Thus the real cost of the per capita UK food basket (£24.79) is calculated to be £2.91 more per person wk (11.8%) if externalities and subsidies are included, with farm externalities (81 p), domestic road transport (76 p), government subsidies (93 p) and shopping transport (41 p) contributing the most. We assess a variety of scenarios for adoption of organic farming, localised food systems and sustainable transport to indicate the substantial potential to reduce environmental costs in the UK food system.
In the former age of national capitalism, the achievement of market fairness was embedded in a normative framework generated by government, labor unions, and perhaps religious authority. In the current age of global capitalism, new actors such as NGOs, industry associations and public–private partnerships provide the normative framework that corporations use for social legitimacy. In this context, standard-setting processes operate as new forms of social contract where the state, rather than being directly involved between the parties, provides a form of basic guarantee while (more or less accountable) NGOs and firms are in charge of hammering out the bargains. This article examines the dynamics of this new configuration through the case study of sustainability initiatives in the coffee sector. It addresses four questions: (1) Are these standards effective in communicating information and creating new markets? (2) To what extent do they embed elements of collective and private interests? (3) Is sustainability content actually delivered to their intended beneficiaries? and (4) What is the role of public policy in addressing their shortcomings?
In the context of near-absence of public food safety and quality standards, or the lack of effective implementation of them where they exist, and in order to increase product quality and consistency and differentiate their product from traditional produce retailers, leading supermarket chains in Central America are imposing private standards on their fresh produce suppliers. These are mainly for cosmetic quality, but emerging also are standards for fresh produce safety, in particular for leafy greens and some fruit. They are implementing the private standards at the same time they are cutting costs in order to compete with wetmarkets, via organizational change in the leading chains’ procurement systems (shifting away from use of spot markets and traditional wholesale systems toward centralized purchases and use of implicit contracts and specialized/dedicated wholesalers). They are coupling those changes with some actions to resolve idiosyncratic factor market failures facing farmers such as through provision of technical assistance. The implementation of these private standards of produce safety are good for consumers as they are among the few food safety practices by domestic food industry actors. But the tougher standards are a challenge for producers who need to make significant investments, implying the need for investment assistance and support services by governments. The paper presents field study findings for Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua from 2002 to 2004.
The paper examines how European retailers are using private standards for food safety and ‘quality’ as risk management and competitive tools and the strategic responses of leading Kenyan and other developing country supplier/exporters to such standards. Despite measures to harmonize a ‘single market’, the European fresh produce market is very diverse in terms of consumer preferences, structural dynamics and attention to and enforcement of food safety and other standards. Leading Kenyan fresh produce suppliers have re-positioned themselves at the high end, including ‘high care’, segments of the market – precisely those that are most demanding in terms of quality assurance and food safety systems. An array of factors have influenced this strategic positioning, including relatively high international freight costs, the emergence of more effective competition in mainstream product lines, relatively low labor costs for produce preparation, and strong market relationships with selected retail chains. To succeed in this demanding market segment, the industry has had to invest substantially in improved production and procurement systems, upgraded pack house facilities, and quality assurance/food safety management systems.
This paper examines the on-going evolution of the organisational architecture of agricultural research in Africa. Once considered a rural backwater populated by agronomists, extension agents and farmers, agricultural research is now being explicitly placed within global debates about innovation, technology, institutions and development. This is reflected in a growing interest in the use of systems of innovation theory to both understand and reform innovation processes within agriculture. The basic argument put forward in the paper is that the conception of a global agricultural research system, and associated efforts to create a coordinated, multi-layered, supra-national research infrastructure, are at odds with both the realities of research at national level, and the bio-physical and socio-economic heterogeneity that characterises rural Africa. It is suggested that a less directive approach to support for agricultural research is required to allow national characteristics and differences to come to the fore, and to give more room for the development of the all important demand-side.
In the process of searching for sustainable trajectories in the food system, this paper reviews and discusses the importance of tightening feedback loops between ecosystems, actors in the food production chain and consumers. Intensification, specialization, distancing, concentration and homogenization are trends identified as major constraints for tightened feedback loops. These trends can mask or make it possible to disregard feedback signals from unhealthy ecosystems and weaken communication in the food chain. We explore possibilities for improved feedback management on local to global scales and present examples where feedback loops have been tightened. Enhanced communication between the actors in the food system and consciousness of ecological feedback, through e.g., increased reliance on local resources, are possibilities for improvement. However, where distances between resource and resource user are too large, feedback has to be directed through institutions on an overarching level, e.g., policy measures or environmental and social labelling of products.
There is evidence that the challenges of complying with stricter food safety and quality standards are acting to exclude small-scale producers from export supply chains for high-value agricultural products. The case of Hortico Agrisystems illustrates the considerable challenges and costs faced by supermarket suppliers in sourcing from a broad base of small-scale producers in the context of evolving food safety and quality standards. While small-scale producers are able to achieve levels of compliance at least equal to those of large-scale producers, multi-tiered and dynamic systems of control are required to maintain control. These need to include measures that facilitate compliance, incentives to reward good performance and penalties to punish non-compliance. In establishing a sustainable supply system in this context, both exporters and small-scale producers face a steep learning curve in adjusting to new requirements, further emphasising the need for supply chains to be responsive to change.
Since the late 1990s, the number of supermarkets in South Africa has been steadily growing. Due to a more effective and efficient management and procurement system, the supermarkets can benefit from economics of scale and sell food at a relative low price. In this paper, we present a case study of two villages in the Transkei area of South Africa. In these poor rural communities, the majority of households now buy their main food items from supermarkets rather than from local shops and farmers. While presenting an important step towards livelihood development and food security, these supermarkets form also a strong competitor for local agricultural sales. The supermarkets provide many food items at lower prices. With an increase in income, the households look for variety and exotism in their food products, and will most likely find this in the supermarkets, rather than the local stores. We argue therefore that development programs should focus on the local growers’ access to the supermarket procurement systems.
This article treats the interaction between decisions of public policy makers and private enterprises in the definition and implementation of standards, in particular with respect to food safety. Based on the observation that European retail chains are becoming increasingly engaged in specifying the conditions of agrifood production, we describe the nature and determinants of the strategies adopted by retailers following the mad cow crisis. We compare these strategies in the beef and the produce (fruit and vegetables) sectors. Due to the different conditions facing both governments and private actors in the two sectors, this comparison permits us to characterize the variables that condition the strategies of the retailers, collectively and individually. The paper then analyses how the levels and the monitoring systems of the standards formulated and enforced by governments, influence the strategies of retail chains. That analysis leads to conclusions regarding what variables governments should take into account when they define minimum quality standards.
Of Malawi’s rural population, 66% have a level of consumption below the national poverty line. We examine the spatial determinants of the prevalence of poverty for small spatially defined populations there. A theoretical approach based on the risk-chain conceptualization of household economic vulnerability guided selection of a set of potential risks and coping strategies – our analytical determinants – that could be represented spatially. We used these to develop global and local models of poverty prevalence. In our global spatial error model, only eight of 24 determinants selected for analysis proved significant. In contrast, all determinants considered were significant in at least some of the local models developed using geographically weighted regression. Moreover, these models provided strong evidence of the spatial non-stationarity of the relationship between poverty and its determinants. This result implies that poverty reduction efforts in rural Malawi should be designed for and targeted at district and subdistrict levels.
Using two complementary methods in a framework that allows incorporating both environmental and household-level factors, we explore the correlates of underweight status among children. We use individual children as the units of analysis in 19 African countries, and subnational survey strata in 43 African, Asian and Latin American countries. We consider the relationship between household-level demographic and health survey data, environmental factors from external geospatial data sets and two indicators of malnutrition among children aged 1–3, deviations from the international standards of weight-for-age and height-for-age. We discuss methods for data integration. In general, household determinants explain more variation than environmental factors, perhaps partly due to more error-prone measurement at the community level. Among individual children, some measures of agricultural capacity are related to lower incidence of child hunger, while among regions, measures relating to urbanness and population density show a stronger relationship. We give recommendations for further study, data collection and policy making.
We identify and map critical spatial factors grouped into natural, human, social, financial and physical capital assets, which largely determine livelihood options, strategies and welfare of agro-pastoral communities in a semi-arid district of southern Kenya. Our approach builds upon new, relatively high-resolution spatial poverty data and refines participatory land-use mapping methods, making valuable information on natural and social resource availability and access useful for policy makers. While most poverty analyses focus on the household, we employ quantitative spatial data analysis methods to examine the spatial correlates of meso-, or community-level poverty incidence. The results suggest that variables influencing poverty levels in this district include pasture potential, livestock density, distance to a major town, road density, access to education, access to security, soil fertility and agricultural potential. Because of the participatory research process taken, these results are already feeding into both local- and national-level policy processes aimed at reducing poverty in Kenya.
This paper assesses the impact of decoupling on farming in Ireland. The decision to engage in production post decoupling is simulated using profit maximising multi-period linear programming models. The number of farmers that would financially benefit from disengaging from production is projected. The results of the economic models suggest that significant restructuring is likely to occur at the farm level as a result of decoupling. Projections of farmers’ production decisions post decoupling are compared and contrasted to the results of a survey of farmers’ production intentions. The comparison shows that despite the significant changes in profitability that decoupling could engender, the majority of farmers intend to continue as before and are unlikely to change their production patterns. The survey of farmers’ intentions indicates that a large number of farmers still seem to consider the decoupled payment linked to production. The implications of these results for land use, agricultural production and farm numbers are discussed.
We explore approaches for targeting agricultural research to benefit poor farmers. Using small area estimation methods and spatial analysis, we generated high-resolution poverty maps and combined them with geo-referenced biophysical data relevant to maize-based agriculture in Mexico. We used multivariate classification and cluster analysis to synthesize biophysical data relevant for crop performance with rural poverty data. Results show that the rural poor are concentrated in particular regions and under particular circumstances. Formal maize germplasm improvement trials were largely outside the core areas of rural poverty and there was little evidence for direct spillover of improved germplasm. Agro-climatic classification used for targeting breeding is useful but often ignores some important factors identified as relevant for the poor. Combining this method with poverty mapping improves stratifying and targeting crop breeding efforts to meet the demands of resource-poor farmers. We believe this integrated approach will help increase benefits from agricultural research to poor rural communities.
This article focuses on the development of public and private standards for milk as an input to the dairy processing sector in Argentina and Brazil. From 1950 to 1990, the dominant trend was the development of public standards for basic safety and hygiene of milk. These induced the incipient modernization of dairy farming, post harvest, and processing technologies, even though implementation of the regulations was only partial. The dairy sectors were liberalized and privatized circa 1990. This spurred the rapid rise of private standards set by large processors over the 1990s and into the 2000s. These standards are much more stringent than public standards, and induced rapid concentration at the processing and farm levels due to stiff investment requirements. In Brazil, private standards were set mainly to drive down costs in the supply chain in order to reduce the consumer prices in the mass commodities market. In Argentina, private standards were used to develop quality differentiation in the product market. In both countries, in the 2000s a debate has emerged on new roles and approaches for public standards.
This study uses a multinomial logistic regression and data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) to examine the factors that influence overweight and obesity among school-age children in the United States. Results show that Black and Hispanic children seem to associate more with the development of at risk for being overweight and overweight. Poverty is another major variable that positively associates with overweight among school-age children. Frequency of physical exercises was found to be positively associated with normal weight and that sedentary behavior was negatively associated with normal weight and positively associated with overweight among children of ages between 12 and 18. The consumption of low fat milk, other dairy products, fruits and legumes is negatively associated with the probabilities of being at risk for overweight and overweight among school-age children. In contrast, increasing consumption of soft drinks, fat and oils, and sodium appears to be the major dietary factors that positively associated with childhood overweight.
We mapped poverty, with reference to a nutrition-based poverty line, to analyse its spatial clustering in Sri Lanka. We used the Divisional Secretariat poverty map, derived by combining the principal component analysis and the synthetic small area estimation technique, as the data source. Two statistically significant clusters appear. One cluster indicates that low poverty rural areas cluster around a few low poverty urban areas, where low agricultural employment and better access to roads are key characteristics. The other indicates a cluster of high poverty rural areas, where agriculture is the dominant economic activity, and where spatial clustering is associated with factors influencing agricultural production. Agricultural smallholdings are positively associated with spatial clustering of poor rural areas. In areas where water availability is low, better access to irrigation significantly reduces poverty. Finally, we discuss the use of poverty mapping for effective policy formulation and interventions for alleviating poverty and food insecurity.
We examine the geographic dimensions of food consumption in Ecuador, which has one of the highest rates of chronic infant undernutrition in Latin America. We use statistical and spatial analyses to examine the distribution of food consumption and food poverty and to test and generate hypotheses of food poverty estimates at the district level. Results show that the food poor are concentrated in certain locations with a significant cluster identified in the central Andean region. Geographically weighted regression shows that the processes underlying food poverty in Ecuador are also spatially variable. While our results lend support for nationwide land tenure reforms, in the central Andes these must take into account productivity constraints and communal ownership. Improvements in transport infrastructure will likely decrease levels of food poverty country-wide but could be most beneficial in the extreme south and in the province of Esmeraldas. Investment in rural enterprise development should be encouraged in all regions.