Taylor & Francis Group

European retailers as agents of change towards sustainability: The case of fruit production in Brazil

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Courtesy of Taylor & Francis Group

As multinational food producers and large retailers are increasingly adopting programmes for safe and sustainable agriculture, they could play a role as 'agents of change' in the transition process towards socially and environmentally responsible production methods. This article argues that the present private-sector programmes indeed provide an impetus for farmers to change their production methods, but are at the same time the second-best option. Because their scope is limited, they may suffer from a weak environmental and social content, they may have discriminating effects on market access, and they may lack democratic procedures. Therefore, it seems necessary that competing initiatives will be developed by the sector using a multi-stakeholder approach, because competition between certification programmes may give an impetus to raise their ambition level in terms of content and good governance. At the same time, governments could play a more active role by using regulatory intervention. Governments could work, for example, on minimum definitions of sustainable agricultural production methods, the restriction of concentrated buyer power and the assistance of smaller producers in coping with the new quality and safety requirements. The empirical focus of this article is on the retailer-led EUREPGAP programme for fruit and vegetables in combination with three fruit producing companies in Brazil.

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