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Thomas Reardon

Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

Tom Reardon is a Professor at the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics. He holds masters degrees from the Université de Nice and from Columbia University. He got his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. Tom’s research focus is on the links between international development and agribusiness/food industry. He researches the transformation of agrifood value chains including the supermarket revolution and the Quiet Revolution in SMEs in the Hidden Middle including processing firms, wholesale and logistics.
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publication
A scoping review of market links between value chain actors and small-scale producers in developing regions

Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food and nutrition security and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. This requires that small-scale producers be included in, and benefit from, the rapid growth and transformation under way in food systems. Small-scale producers interact with various actors when they link with markets, including product traders, logistics firms, processors and retailers. The literature has explored primarily how large firms interact with farmers through formal contracts and resource provision arrangements. Although important, contracts constitute a very small share of smallholder market interactions. There has been little exploration of whether non-contract interactions between small farmers and both small- and large-scale value chain actors have affected small farmers’ livelihoods. This scoping review covers 202 studies on that topic. We find that non-contract interactions, de facto mostly with small and medium enterprises, benefit small-scale producers via similar mechanisms that the literature has previously credited to large firms. Small and medium enterprises, not just large enterprises, address idiosyncratic market failures and asset shortfalls of small-scale producers by providing them, through informal arrangements, with complementary services such as input provision, credit, information and logistics. Providing these services directly supports Sustainable Development Goal 2 by improving farmer welfare through technology adoption and greater productivity.

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publication
Youth and Adult Agrifood System Employment in Developing Regions: Rural (Peri-urban to Hinterland) vs. Urban

Using a unique dataset covering 178,794 households with 460,654 individuals spanning Africa, Asia, and Latin America, we explore employment of youths across rural zones (peri-urban, intermediate, hinterland) and urban areas. Using full-time equivalents (FTEs), we compare own-farming versus farm-wage labour, and nonfarm wage- and self-employment. Nonfarm includes: (a) agrifood system (AFS) jobs post-farmgate, in food processing, wholesale, logistics, retail, and food service; (b) non-AFS. Key findings are noted in order by Africa, Asia, and Latin America (whose youth employment rates are 61%, 39%, and 48%). (1) AFS shares in FTEs of employed rural youths are substantial (21%, 21%, and 23%). Wage employment share of AFS is lower in Africa (25%) versus Asia and Latin America (75%). (2) Own-farming in FTEs of employed rural youths are higher in Africa (51%, 19%, and 12%). The share for adults in Africa is 36%. Regressions show youths’ being in school does not reduce employment in own-farming (they are compatible), but reduces nonfarm labour. (3) Farm-wage employment shares in FTEs are small (4%, 13%, and 16%). (4) Regressions show that rural youths’ being in a peri-urban area sharply increases AFS and non-AFS employment compared with hinterland youths who depend more on own-farming.

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publication
Rapid transformation of food systems in developing regions: Highlighting the role of agricultural research & innovations

Developing regions' food system has transformed rapidly in the past several decades. The food system is the dendritic cluster of R&D value chains, and the value chains linking input suppliers to farmers, and farmers upstream to wholesalers and processors midstream, to retailers then consumers downstream. We analyze the transformation in terms of these value chains' structure and conduct, and the effects of changes in those on its performance in terms of impacts on consumers and farmers, as well as the efficiency of and waste in the overall chain. We highlight the role of, and implications for agricultural research, viewed broadly as farm technology as well as research pertaining to all aspects of input and output value chains.

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