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Origin-based marketing : A rural development tool?

Sautier D., Van de Kop P.. 2006. In : Van de Kop Petra (ed.), Sautier Denis (ed.), Gerz Astrid (ed.). Origin-based products : Lessons for pro-poor market development. Amsterdam : KIT, p. 17-20. (Bulletins of the Royal Tropical Institute, 372).

Over the past decades, more and more foods have been marketed, branded or labelled to show where they come from and how they are produced. This 'origin-based' marketing strengthens relations between producers and consumers, adds value to farm produce, and preserves local knowledge and culture (Sylvander et al., 2000). While origin-based marketing has a long history, its importance, both from a demand and from a supply-side point of view, is increasing, partly as a reaction to globalization (Van Ittersum, 2004). Local producers need to be able to distinguish their product in the eyes of consumers from generic, sometimes cheaper competitors. The more global the market, the more important are the criteria used in this distinction. Non-price factors (such as perceived quality, image and taste) are gaining importance at the very moment that price competition is becoming tougher. This applies not only to exports, but also to locally marketed products, which must compete directly with imported products - increasingly the case in many developing countries. Origin-based marketing has been supported through public policies in Europe - especially in France and Italy, where labels of origin for wines, cheese, spirits, olive oil and meat have contributed significantly to maintaining rural vitality. Unsurprisingly, most of the documentation on the mechanisms of origin-based marketing also comes from Europe. In the developing world, however, consumers have less to spend, and they are less concerned about losing high-quality regional foods and the traditional country way of life. Here, the potential of using regional identity to maintain and develop markets for smallholder producers is not yet well understood. Local products are overwhelmingly present in developing countries. In a rapidly urbanizing country, origin is a proxy, an indicator, for quality. References to origin convey trust to newly urbanized consumers. People from a particular region or ethnic group tend to look for foods they are familiar with back home. Then gradually, these local products begin to gain a name and reputation for confidence and reliability among a wider group of traders and consumers. This recognition of specialty local foods is an important, though informal, market mechanism. Regional and local foods show that cultural and geographical proximity between producers, traders and consumers plays a role in the dynamics of economic development (Pecqueur and Zimmermann, 2003). Many countries outside the European Union are interested in adding value to their typical agricultural and food products and in formally protecting their names from misuse and abuse on international markets. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Kenya, Jamaica and other developing countries have demanded better protection of their products, to prevent multinationals from patenting and owning intellectual property such as 'Basmati' rice, 'Ceylon' tea or 'Blue Mountain' coffee. The marketing and labelling of regional products in developing countries relies on very different justifications and social-economic processes. However, it is unclear what potential exists for origin-based marketing and labelling, and what the opportunities might be for smallholders in the developing world. What are the benefits of regional identities in developing countries? Can official labelling make a difference, and can it provide a win-win solution for small producers and consumers? Under what conditions can origin-based labelling benefit smallholder producers....
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