In light of growing concerns over the implications of many conventional agricultural practices, and especially the deep tilling of soils, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), among others, has begun to promote a package of soil conserving practices under the banner of ‘conservation agriculture’. While the title might be novel, its associated practices have long been employed by farmers, and studied by social scientists seeking to understand the reasons for their adoption and non-adoption. This paper reviews and synthesizes this past research in order to identify those independent variables that regularly explain adoption, and thereby facilitate policy prescriptions to augment adoption around the world. While a disaggregated analysis of a subset of commonly used variables reveals some underlying patterns of influence, once various contextual factors (e.g. study locale or method) are controlled, the primary finding of the synthesis is that there are few if any universal variables that regularly explain the adoption of conservation agriculture across past analyses. Given the limited prospect of identifying such variables through further research, we conclude that efforts to promote conservation agriculture will have to be tailored to reflect the particular conditions of individual locales.
Several food safety issues have prompted questions regarding the role of country-of-origin labeling, traceability, and food safety inspections in consumers’ perceptions of food safety and quality. The importance of origin-labeling and traceability have been discussed in the EU for some time. North American cases of mad cow disease have led to increased discussions of these topics in the US, however, relatively little research has been conducted to examine the value US consumers place on these attributes. Choice experiments were used to analyze US consumers’ relative preferences and willingness-to-pay for these meat attributes in labeled ribeye beef steaks. Relatively speaking, consumers value certification of USDA food safety inspection more than any of the other choice set attributes, including country-of-origin labeling, traceability and tenderness. As a result, indication of origin may only become a signal of enhanced quality if the source-of-origin is associated with higher food safety or quality.
Rapid economic and income growth, urbanization, and globalization are leading to a dramatic shift of Asian diets away from staples and increasingly towards livestock and dairy products, vegetables and fruit, and fats and oils. While the diversification of diets away from the traditional dominance of rice with rising incomes is expected and observed, current food consumption patterns are showing signs of convergence towards a Western diet. The diet transition is characterized by increased consumption of: wheat; temperate fruit and vegetables and high protein and energy dense food. Globalization and the consequent global interconnectedness of the urban middle class, is the driving force behind the convergence of diets. The rapid spread of global supermarket chains and fast food restaurants is reinforcing the above trends. The growing demand for diet diversity cannot be met solely by the traditional food supply chain. It requires the modernisation of the food retail sector, and the vertical integration of the food supply chain, in effect linking the consumers’ plate to the farmers’ plow. As a consequence, Asian agriculture is on an irreversible path leading away from its traditional pre-occupation with cereal crop production, especially rice, towards a production system that is becoming increasingly commercialized and diversified. This paper describes the determinants and trends in the diversification and Westernization of Asian diets. Implications of the evolving demand trends for food supply and retail systems are presented. The paper discusses the prospects for small farmer participation in the emerging food supply system, with a particular emphasis on Asian rice production systems. Finally, the paper considers emerging challenges for food policy, small holder welfare, and agricultural research and development priorities.
In response to dramatically increasing adoption in consumer markets, the National Organic Program (NOP) initiated novel labeling standards for food products in the US in 2002. This program is a particularly relevant standardization effort for multi-ingredient processed foods. Rather than a simple binary message (organic or not), gradations of organic content are now codified. No existing published study evaluates consumer willingness to pay or motivation to purchase in response to such a rich organic label. This article presents evidence of the impact of the NOP through analysis of data collected in seven central Ohio, USA grocery stores. Results suggest that consumers are willing to pay premium prices for organic foods, even those with less than 100% organic ingredients. The magnitudes of WTP premia varied significantly among consumer groups, suggesting that targeted marketing may be effective for organic merchandisers.
Integrated natural resources management (INRM), of which integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) is a component, offers considerable promise for increasing food production in Kenya. It nonetheless remains unclear whether ISFM/INRM techniques lend themselves easily to adoption by smallholder farmers. Using panel data collected in western Kenya in 1989 and 2002, this study finds that resource constraints limit many farmers’ adoption of ISFM/INRM techniques. The size of the farm owned by a household, the value of its livestock, off-farm income, family labor supply, and the educational attainment and gender of the household head all had a significant positive effect on the likelihood of adoption. Similar factors were found to be statistically significant in discouraging abandonment of the practices under study. There thus seem to exist reinforcing feedback between investments in soil fertility management and household wealth, as measured by asset endowments. Our findings raise important questions as to whether ISFM and related techniques are really affordable to poorer smallholder farmers.
Public concern about food safety is placing increasing pressure on government agencies to be more prescriptive and proactive in their regulation of the food industry. However, given the scarcity of public sector resources, concerns about the impact of regulation on competitiveness and the scale of the task at hand, there is growing interest in co-regulation, with public and private sectors working hand-in-hand to deliver safer food at lower (regulatory) cost. This paper explores the scope for the co-regulation of food safety in the UK and North America, where there are distinct differences in the established regulatory processes. The authors conclude that opportunities clearly exist, to varying degrees in the different countries analysed, but that considerable obstacles remain to the widespread adoption of co-regulatory practices in the area of food safety.
This study aims at shedding some light on the potential impact of agricultural technology adoption on poverty alleviation strategies. It does so through an empirical investigation of the relationship between technological change, of the Green Revolution type, and wellbeing of smallholder farm households in two rural Bangladeshi regions. As technology adoption is not randomly assigned but there is ‘self-selection into treatment’, the paper tackles a methodological issue in assessing the ‘causal’ effect of technology on farm-household wellbeing through the non-parametric ‘ -score matching analysis’. It pursues a targeted evaluation of whether adopting a modern seed technology causes resource-poor farmers to improve their income and decrease the propensity to fall below the poverty line. It finds a robust and positive effect of agricultural technology adoption on farm household wellbeing suggesting that there is a large scope for enhancing the role of agricultural technology in ‘directly’ contributing to poverty alleviation.
This paper analyses the quantitative effects of using economic instruments in health policy on the basis of price elasticities calculated from estimated demand systems. The nutritional effects of various taxation schemes are compared for households in different age groups and social classes. Focusing on the consumption of saturated fats, fibre and sugar; it is generally found that the impact of price instruments is stronger for lower social classes than in other groups of the population. With regard to age groups, it is mostly the youngest that decrease their demand for saturated fat in response to price changes, while it is mostly the middle-aged who exhibit price responsiveness in their demand for sugar. These groups are however not considered as key target groups for dietary regulation; thus tax instruments may be effective in improving diets on average, but the design of the instruments and the targeting of vulnerable groups with special needs should be done with care. It should be noted that a tax on a single nutrient or food may have undesired effects on the demand for other food components, though this may be avoided by introducing taxes/subsidies on several food products simultaneously.
Biofortification, the focus of the HarvestPlus program of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), represents a potentially powerful tool to increase dietary intake of essential nutrients in staple foods. This paper evaluates the compatibility of biofortification with the preferred option of dietary diversification and its potential impacts on the agricultural biodiversity essential for long term sustainability. In poor countries, biofortification requires increasing public investment in agricultural research and infrastructure for success. Rather than cereal commodities, biofortification for developing countries should focus on vegetatively propagated species or in improving quality of coarse cereals, as well as fodders. Community participatory approaches that identify local food resources with nutritional, agronomic and economic advantages to small-scale farmers could complement and set targets for biofortification as one of many approaches to alleviate nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore using agricultural biodiversity to reinforce dietary diversity can help situate biofortification within the larger context of sustainable food-based approaches. In this light, this paper evaluates specific biofortification interventions from environmental, sociocultural, political, economic, ethical, and biomedical perspectives.
This paper examines consumers’ knowledge about nutritional labels (i.e., nutritional panel), use of nutritional labels, and perceived benefits from a mandatory nutritional labeling program. Using data from a pilot study conducted in a Spanish city and a three-equation multivariate probit model, our results suggest that individuals who suffer some health problems related to food intake are more knowledgeable about nutritional labels. Further, those who are more knowledgeable about nutritional labels are more likely to use nutritional labels, and nutritional label users are more likely to consider mandatory nutritional labeling as beneficial. Perceived usefulness of the information provided by nutritional labels as well as the amount of presented information affect consumer perceptions about whether or not mandatory nutritional labeling would be beneficial.
Food aid, both for short-term emergency relief and as program food aid that helps address medium-term food “deficits”, is often a major component of food security strategies in developing countries. This study reviews the experience with food aid of four major recipients of food aid (India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Zambia) regarding food production, trade, markets, consumption and safety nets, as well as the policy responses to food emergencies. The widely varying experiences of the study countries suggest that food aid that supports building of production and market enhancing infrastructure, is timed to avoid adverse price effects on producers, and is targeted to food insecure households can play a positive role in enhancing food security. However, food aid is not the only, or in many cases, the most efficient means of addressing food insecurity. In many cases private markets can more effectively address shortfalls in food availability and cash transfers may be a viable alternative to food transfers in-kind.
The study analyzes ex ante the adoption of insect-resistant Bt eggplant technology in India. Farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP) is estimated using the contingent valuation method. Given the economic importance of insect pests in eggplant cultivation, the average WTP for Bt hybrids is more than four times the current price of conventional hybrid seeds. Since the private innovating firm has also shared its technology with the public sector, proprietary hybrids will likely get competition through public open-pollinated Bt varieties after a small time lag. This will reduce farmers’ WTP for Bt hybrids by about 35%, thus decreasing the scope for corporate pricing policies. Nonetheless, ample private profit potential remains. Analysis of factors influencing farmers’ adoption decisions demonstrates that public Bt varieties will particularly improve technology access for resource-poor eggplant producers. The results suggest that public–private partnership can be beneficial for all parties involved.
The New Zealand dairy industry faces political and commercial pressure to improve its environmental performance on the one hand while maintaining economic efficiency and commercial competitiveness in a global marketplace on the other. The growing scale and intensity of dairy production have caused significant cumulative environmental impacts. The industry response to political pressures for improved environmental performance has involved a narrow focus on water quality and pasture management. It is consistent with an approach which seeks to maintain size and industrial leverage in the face of global trade competition. This paper explores the productivist constructions of environmental management by the New Zealand dairy industry in the context of global economic competition and notes an alternative response inspired by an ethic of sustainability. It suggests that despite global pressures of economic competition, it is possible to incorporate non-material values into farm management provided these are recognised and rewarded.
The industrialization of agriculture and the potential problem of small-scale farmer marginalization calls for a fresh approach to the design of agribusiness supply chain arrangements in developing countries. The objective of the paper is to contribute to a better understanding of institutional arrangements that can promote stable smallholder agribusiness contracting arrangements in a developing country context. A case study approach, incorporating a transaction cost framework, is used to test whether trust can significantly change the contract characteristics of supply. The results suggest that although the presence of trust can influence the contract characteristics of a supply arrangement, it may not be significant because of other factors in a developing country context. Bearing this in mind, a number of institutional arrangements are recommended in order to promote more stable contract conditions.
This study investigates food trade patterns in relation to water resources availability in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries (SEMED). Examinations show that most of these countries have a high dependence on the import of water intensive crops – cereal, vegetable oil and sugar, in the domestic food supply. The region as a whole is marginally a net exporter of fruits and vegetables, while variations are substantial across countries. Multi-variable regression analyses show that intensification of water scarcity is an important factor in explaining the increase in food import in the SEMED countries during the past two decades. It also finds that while GDP per capita has a strong influence on the level of food import in a country, its impact on changes in the import during the same period is rather modest. No significant relationship is found between the trade of fruits and vegetables and water resources availability. The projection on food import with respect to the decline in per capita water resources availability results in an increase of 40%, 39% and 14%, respectively, for cereal, vegetable oil and sugar by 2020 in the region, holding other factors constant. The European Union (EU) is the major food trade partner of the SEMED countries, except for cereal. About 70% of the fruit export and 55% of the vegetable export of the region currently go to the EU market. Expanding the export of fruits and vegetables is conducive to improving the value of water use in the SEMED countries. However, the expansion is constrained partly by the barriers in the destination markets, notably the EU.
Pushed by increasing availability of price data and extensive market liberalisation efforts in many developing countries, research on food market integration has evolved rapidly over the last two decades. Empirical methods to measure market integration diverged in two directions: on the one hand, there is the parity bounds model (PBM) using a switching regressions technique, while on the other hand the use of threshold autoregressive (TAR) models has been proposed. This article provides a discussion on the two methods and argues that TAR models are better able to capture the dynamics of the arbitrage process underlying interconnected markets. Furthermore, we extend the standard TAR model to include a time trend in both the threshold and the adjustment parameter. Using weekly maize price data on seven selected markets in Tanzania, we illustrate how both transaction cost and the speed of adjustment have changed during the nineties.
We analyze responses to a survey designed to elicit consumer reaction to various approaches to labeling genetically modified (GM) foods. Consumers were shown sample labels that differed with respect to claims concerning the presence and potential effects of GM ingredients and the agency that certified these claims. A sample of 1898 US consumers rated 3681 labels with regard to the credibility and adequacy of the information content, with regard to perceived health and environmental impacts of the product and with regard to purchase intent. Simple claims that a product contains GM ingredients are viewed as most credible while simple claims of no GM content are viewed as most adequate. Label claims certified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are, in general, viewed as most credible and adequate and products with FDA certified claims are perceived to have fewer long-term health problems. Several practical policy implications of the results are discussed, including how different label messages may impact consumer reactions in markets involving GM products.
The establishment of intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plant varieties has caused considerable controversy, but there is relatively little empirical evidence on performance and options in developing countries. This paper summarizes the results of a recent five-country study, concentrating on the conduct of plant variety protection (PVP) regimes. It examines PVP in the context of other mechanisms that provide incentives for plant breeding. It discusses the principal options available to developing countries and examines the ability of PVP to offer protection from competing firms and from on-farm seed saving. It also looks at the administrative and management requirements of PVP regimes. Although the paper does not discuss patent protection for biotechnology it examines the IPR requirements for the introduction of transgenic varieties. Developing countries need to establish an appropriate PVP system, but PVP should be seen as part of a broader strategy for seed system development.
In Afghanistan, after two decades of civil strife and successive droughts from 1998 to 2002, large inflows of food aid, distributed mainly to returning refugees and through food for work programs, have helped offset production shortfalls of wheat, the country’s major staple. At the same time, private international trade from neighboring countries, especially Pakistan, has also played a major role in augmenting wheat supply and stabilizing prices. This paper presents an analysis of wheat prices and market flows in Afghanistan based on results of surveys of wheat traders and millers, and econometric analysis of price movements in major markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In spite of food aid imports, domestic prices were not lowered below import parity levels in most major Afghan markets. Thus, the price evidence suggests that large-scale inflows of food aid, which benefited the country by providing resources for targeted food for work and other programs, did not have major price disincentive effects on domestic production, at least through mid-2003. However, following the 2003 bumper harvest, the analysis suggests that continued food aid inflows may have depressed producer prices by as much as about 15%. Moreover, given substantial prospects for rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, there is ample scope for increasing domestic production of wheat and decreasing import demand, so price disincentive effects of food aid remain a possibility in the future, as well.