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Contemporary narratives about asymmetries in responsibility in global agri-food value chains: the case of the Ecuadorian stakeholders in the banana value chain

Claudia Coral () and Dagmar Mithöfer ()
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Claudia Coral: Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Dagmar Mithöfer: Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Agriculture and Human Values, 2023, vol. 40, issue 3, No 17, 1019-1038

Abstract: Abstract Global concerns over environmental and social issues in agrifood value chains have increased and are reflected in a number of voluntary sustainability standards and regulatory initiatives. However, these initiatives are often based on poor knowledge of production realities, creating a disconnect between producing and consuming countries. Through narrative analysis, this paper reveals asymmetries in the responsibilities of the various actors participating in Ecuadorian banana value chains, providing clear problem- and solution-framings. Despite the broad range of actors interviewed, our analysis reveals convergence in two main narratives that reflect asymmetries amongst local actors in terms of their ability to participate, ability to maintain participation, and adaptation strategies in view of changing external factors. One narrative relates to sustainability adaptations, the cost of which is not shared among all value chain actors. This is combined with a downward trend in the price of bananas and the lack of a differentiated price to account for losses and costs arising from increasing sustainability standards. Another narrative reflects a value chain structure that threatens small-farm survival. It highlights the urgency of protecting small-farm activity by enforcing national regulation and developing new market segments/models that understand small-scale producer reality. Study results show that the multitude of standards is not seen as beneficial and that downstream actors rather wish for common minimum standards to reduce business costs. Compatibility between standards and local realities should be a priority for global sustainability standards adoption. Building on the problems and solution-framings of local value chain links, we give voice to local actors, and link their perceptions to existing literature and discursive politics while contributing to social transparency and addressing the democratic deficit in agrifood value chains.

Keywords: European green deal; Fair trade; Equity; Social justice; Maximum residue limits; Voluntary sustainability standards (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1007/s10460-022-10405-3

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