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Heroes or Villains – Agriculture's Value Chain Middlemen

University House (Library)
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Social Sciences
Thursday 29th January 2015 (12:00-13:00)
Download the date to your calendar (.ics file)

Global Value Chains Research Cluster Seminar Series

Speaker: Zad Patta

  • Independent Govenor - University of Worcester
  • Board Director - BoxOn UK Limited
  • Executive Director - SYCC


Over the past ten years supply chains have been instrumental in changing how trade is undertaken around the world and how value is created and captured within many different value chains.  It is apparent that as production has become more and more fragmented and the relationship between buyers and suppliers ever closer, the Global Value Chain (GVC) framework has become an invaluable tool in demonstrating the full range of activities it now takes to bring a product to market (Backer and Miroudot, 2013).

One key area it has focused upon is that of governance, in particular the use of public and private governance regimes. It has considered the different types of value chain governance such as market, modular, relational, captive and value to illustrate the power asymmetries that exist within GVCs (Gereffi et al., 2005). Relative factors such as complexity, codification and capabilities have been taken into account when determining which type is prevalent and best suited to improve conditions for temporary workers.

This paper provides a brief overview of key structural changes occurring within the food industry, a significant example being the use of disintermediation – the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain, by retailers, to combat negative public perception of supply chains since the horsemeat scandal.The timing of the study, which the paper draws upon, is particularly pertinent, as the issue of worker exploitation has again become a key concern within the UK horticulture supply chain. In 2010, research conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted that cases of ‘forced labour’ had increased significantly in sectors such as food processing and agriculture (Scott et al., 2012). 

More recent examples include the exploitation of 30 Lithuanian nationals on a Freedom Foods accredited chicken farm where workers were subjected to debt bondage, poor conditions and violence (Lawrence, 2013).  The study also coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy of Morecambe Bay and the creation of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) in 2004.

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