The rise of private food standards has brought forth an ongoing debate about whether they work as a barrier for smallholders and hinder poverty reduction in developing countries. This paper uses a global value chain approach to explain the relationship between value chain structure and agrifood safety and quality standards and to discuss the challenges and possibilities this entails for the upgrading of smallholders. It maps four potential value chain scenarios depending on the degree of concentration in the markets for agrifood supply (farmers and manufacturers) and demand (supermarkets and other food retailers) and discusses the impact of lead firms and key intermediaries on smallholders in different chain situations. Each scenario is illustrated with case examples. Theoretical and policy issues are discussed, along with proposals for future research in terms of industry structure, private governance, and sustainable value chains.
Corporate codes of conduct, product certifications, process standards, and other voluntary, non-governmental forms of private governance have proliferated in the last two decades. These innovations are a response to social pressures unleashed by globalization and the inadequacy of governmental institutions for addressing its social and environmental impacts. Private governance has had some notable successes, but there are clear limits to what it alone can be expected to accomplish. We hypothesize that the effectiveness of private governance depends on four main factors: 1) the structure of the particular global value chain in which production takes place; 2) the extent to which demand for a firm's products relies on its brand identity; 3) the possibilities for collective action by consumers, workers, or other activists to exert pressure on producers; and 4) the extent to which commercial interests of lead firms align with social and environmental concerns. Taken together, these hypotheses suggest that private governance will flourish in only a limited set of circumstances. With the trend towards consolidation of production in the largest developing countries, however, we also see a strengthening of some forms of public governance. Private governance will not disappear, but it will be linked to emerging forms of multi-stakeholder institutions. © 2010 Berkeley Electronic Press. All rights reserved.