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Equity implications of emerging private standards schemes: What is the role of the public sector ?

Motte Biénabe E., Biénabe E., Motte E., Bramley C., Vermeulen H.. 2010. In : Actes des 4èmes journées INRA-SFER-CIRAD de recherches en sciences sociales, 9-10 décembre 2010, Rennes. Paris : SFER, 20 p.. Journées de recherches en sciences sociales. 4, 2010-12-09/2010-12-10, Rennes (France).

The paper explores the evolution of standards setting and implementation, and especially the increased importance of the private sector in these dynamics, with a view to discuss public policy considerations from a producer perspective. Building on insights from South Africa, it provides an initial exploration of the implications at farm level of standard proliferation and the associated consolidation of retail based supply chains. It stresses changes in the institutional and marketing environment associated with standards development, and points out, in particular, the contrast between the long term trend of the withdrawal of state support in the agricultural sector and the increased involvement of retailers at farm level as a consequence of their prominent role in standard setting. Particular attention is given to the move from public to private standards and its implications for supply chain organisation and market access. The discussion of the evolution of organic and sustainability standards in South Africa presents a clear example of the evolving role of private and public stakeholders and their considerations behind standard setting as well as the private and public systems that accompany standard development and implementation. In line with generally observed trends, the paper shows how the governing process has mostly been driven by private initiatives, with governments lagging in the provision of minimum standards. It also highlights the private sector's innovative and increasingly comprehensive approach to integrating farming and sustainability initiatives, and illustrates how the resultant private systems strongly contrast with the fragmented framework at public level. We argue that this evolution tends to broaden the gap between smallholders and large scale farmers, as it is predominantly the latter that benefits from these changes. The paper concludes with public policy considerations. (Résumé d'auteur)

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