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Is there a pilot in the chain? Identifying the key drivers of change in the fresh pineapple sector

Vagneron I., Faure G., Loeillet D.. 2007. In : Fritz M. (ed.), Rickert U. (ed.), Schiefer Gerhard (ed.). Innovation and systems dynamics in food networks 2007 : Proceedings of the 1st International European Forum, February 15-17, 2007, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria (Vol. I). Bonn : Universität Bonn-ILB Press, p. 381-397. International European Forum on Innovation and System Dynamics in Food Networks. 1, 2007-02-15/2007-02-17, Innsbruck (Autriche).

In contrast with the theory of supply and demand, the strong increase in world supply - and hence in pineapple imports - did not result in a price fall, at least not at the beginning. The unit value of fresh pineapples increased- in the USA, the leading import market, from less than USD 400 per ton in 1994 to a peak of USD 580 in 20023. One interesting feature of the fresh pineapple market is the competition between producer countries and the reshaping in the geography of pineapple production: almost non-existent on the market in the late 80s, Costa Rica is today world's top exporter of fresh pineapples, with exports reaching 1.1 millions ton in 2006. The evolution of the world market for fresh pineapples also reflects the fierce battle that takes place between global agro-food giants (Del Monte, Chiquita, Dole, large retailers, to name but some). In this battle, innovation in a wide acceptance - varietal, logistical, technical - has been a key driver of change. A new driver seems to be gaining strength, as firms awaken to the advantages of using private standards as a strategic tool and to reassure anxious consumers. This shows through the explosion of private and business-to-business standards aimed at guaranteeing the quality/safety of food products. Varietal, logistical and standard related innovations play a crucial role in shaping the world pineapple market, but not only. They also determine in producer countries who will be able to supply and who will not. The aim of this article is to question the relevance of global value chain theory to understand the evolutions of the fresh pineapple market over the 40 past years. Using a historical framework, we identify the main actors, the leaders/pilots and the drivers of the fresh pineapple chain, and characterise the governance structure of this chain and its evolution over the long period. The paper is organized as follows: Section 1 presents the main concepts developed by the theory of global value chains to analyse the evolution of governance in the fresh pineapple chain. More specifically, we draw on works related to upgrading and to the quality dimension in global value chains (Humphrey and Schmitz, 2002; Ponte and Gibbon, 2005; Gereffi et al., 2005). Indeed, identifying the pilot of the pineapple chain at various points of time is merely a pretext for addressing the more crucial question of how the pilot operates and how this shapes the access of other operators to the value chain. The objective of Section 2 is to analyse the historical dynamics of the fresh pineapple market: four periods are identified, each one characterized by a specific pilot, specific drivers of change and a specific geographical setting that we explicit. Section 3 explores some details of Costa Rica's achievement as a major player in the fresh pineapple chain. Costa Rica's success is emblematic of both the shifting geographies of production at work in global value chains, and of the deep changes that global markets induce in domestic production structures. This final point is developed through a discussion of the impact of internationals standards on pineapple growers in Costa Rica. The implications of the varietal, technical, logistical, marketing and organisational innovations at work on the pineapple market are discussed in Section 4....

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