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Accepted Paper:

Private governance of overlapping global, regional and domestic value chains: the case of South African apples  
Matt Alford (University of Manchester) Margareet Visser (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

There has been a recent shift in the trade of South African apples from the global North to South, with implications for the private governance of standards. We find uneven enforcement across overlapping value chains, due to producers’ differentiated network embeddedness in Northern value chains.

Paper long abstract:

A dramatic shift in the end markets of South African fresh apples from the global North to South has occurred in the last ten years. Whilst the bulk of South African apples were previously sold to EU and UK supermarkets via global value chains, today more than 50% are sold through domestic and regional value chains linked to supermarkets, wholesalers, national fresh produce markets and wet markets based in South Africa and Africa. This paper explores the implications of these shifts for the private governance of standards. A prevailing assumption in existing GVC and standards literature is that Southern buyers’ demand for, and enforcement of private standards is highly limited relative to Northern lead-firms. Our study challenges this assumption to some extent. On the one hand we see an increasing demand for product and process standards by Southern buyers, who “piggy-back” on the private standards of Northern retailers. On the other hand, we found evidence of apples –produced on farms are neither subjected to private standards nor strict enforcement of public regulation – being sold to domestic and regional supermarkets, either directly or via national fresh produce markets. Based on these findings, the paper argues that despite increasingly strict enforcement of private standards in Southern markets, such enforcement remains uneven, which can be ascribed to producers’ differentiated levels of network embeddedness in Northern value chains.

Panel P04a
Shifting South: Governance of regional value chains, social standards and Covid-19 I
  Session 1 Monday 28 June, 2021, -