Governance and Power across Intersecting Value Chains: The Case of South African Apples

Matthew Alford & Margareet Visser
2023
DOI number

#Agriculture and food
#Sub-saharan Africa
#Social and working conditions

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A prevailing focus of global value chain (GVC) analysis has been on the dominance of highly consolidated Northern retailers over suppliers in the global South. The rise of regional and domestic value chains (RVCs/DVCs) within the Global South which intersect with GVCs, has been found to involve private governance by Southern lead firms. However, we have limited insight into the implications of this changing value chain context for the role of public governance, or different groups of workers. South African fruit provides a rich example of rapid shifts in RVCs/DVCs governed by different private and public actors. The following two questions are addressed: How is the public–private governance of labour standards evolving in the context of RVCs and DVCs that intersect with GVCs? What are the implications for workers operating across different value chains? Conceptually, the paper draws on GVC analysis of governance and power, to examine the governance of labour standards across intersecting value chains. Our analysis highlights the intentional and unintentional mechanisms through which power and standard-setting are diffused away from Northern lead firms to a wider array of public and private actors operating across RVCs/DVCs. While existing analysis of governance and power focuses on singular GVCs, our study highlights diffusion of power across intersecting value chains, with significant and uneven implications for the public–private governance of labour standards. Our findings carry significant ethical implications for the governance of labour standards, as end-markets continue to shift South.

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