About one-third of trade in food and agricultural products takes place within global value chains (GVC). Coffee, palm oil or biofuels are, among others, examples of the modern organization of the agri-food production through GVC. Nowadays agricultural raw materials may cross borders several times before reaching the final consumers, being embedded in intermediate and final goods processed in different countries. Agri-food GVC are typically characterized by a strong coordination between farmers, processors, traders, and retailers. In several cases, leading firms may play a critical role by defining the exchange terms along the supply chain, influencing how the added value is distributed. The coordination of the value chain can be initiated by downstream buyers, such as large retailers and food processors, or by upstream suppliers, including single farms, farmers’ cooperatives, and suppliers of agricultural inputs.
The growth of the agri-food GVC raises new issues. Participating in the GVC is expected to have a number of positive effects, both at the macro and micro scale, in terms of technology and knowledge spillovers, gains in productivity, employment opportunities, and increases of farmers’ income. On the other hand, the market concentration in agri-food GVC raises concerns due to the consequent changes of market and bargaining power at different levels of the supply chain, calling into question the role of competition and regulation. Furthermore, producing for agri-food GVCs may result in an intensification of agricultural production with negative environmental effects, such as deployment and overuse of natural resources. Finally, GVCs may compete with local value chains for land, labor, water, soil nutrients, and other resources.
Sound knowledge and evidence about the nature and implications of the modern agri-food GVC would be relevant for policy-makers, firms and the civil society. The economic analysis of the agri-food GVCs challenges agricultural and food economists in several ways. Given the complex nature of the GVC and of the related issues, the use of new and multiple lens becomes essential to analyze this phenomenon. Country-level (macro) approaches are needed in order to investigate the drivers of the world-wide fragmentation of the agri-food production and the welfare implications for countries participating to the GVCs. Recent progresses in empirical trade analyses of GVCs are certainly fundamental to the understanding of agri-food GVCs. Industry level (meso) approaches are also needed to investigate the relationships among the various stages of the GVCs. Analytical tools and approaches from the industrial organization literature are also suitable to analyze the price transmission along the agri-food GVCs, and to explore the drivers of vertical coordination, or the distributions of benefits along the GVCs. Finally, a firm level approach (micro) is needed to investigate the implications for farmers of participating in GVCs.
The 10th AIEAA Annual Conference aims to contribute to this debate, by putting together different disciplines and approaches to the analysis of agri-food GVCs, of their implications in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability and of their prospects in the post COVID-19 era.