Reardon co-author of new article in prestigious Journal of Economic Literature

Barrett, Reardon, Swinnen, and Zilberman publish seminal development economics article on agri-food value chain models

East Lansing, Michigan—New article on the hidden economic growth found in the agri-food value chains of low- and middle- income countries suggests a wide arena of research opportunities and possibilities for investment. “Agri-food Value Chain Revolutions in Low- and Middle-Income Countries” was published in the prominent Journal of Economic Literature by four distinguished development economics researchers, Christopher Barrett of Cornell University; University Distinguished Professor, Thomas Reardon; Johan Swinnen, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and David Zilberman, University of California, Berkeley.

The paper lays out a clear empirical narrative of the process of agri-food value chain revolutions in developing countries and how these changes impact the lives and economies of those within them. Most importantly, the authors suggest the study of these structural changes is under-explored by economists.

The authors state, “Economists need to begin paying far more attention to the emergence and diffusion of innovations through the broader agri-food value chain, not just to changes taking place on farms, as important as those may be. One of the potentially most important questions concerns the relative importance—even to farmers and farmworkers—of innovations in the post-farmgate AVC as compared to on the farm.”

While agricultural economists have structured research to focus on rural farmers, fisherfolk, herders, and other producers, the agri-food value chain that connects producers to increasingly urban consumers has often been omitted from theoretical models. From the paper, “There is a vast need for empirical work that will assist the developing theories on supply chains. It may require better documenting and understanding of the behavior of large organizations and the evolution of linkages between them. Analysis of these patterns can be quite challenging.”

More data on these emerging value-chains is needed, and it is possible that economists may need to adopt methodologies from other disciplines in order to effectively analyze that data. A more wholistic approach that includes the political economy and regulations as well as the perspectives of other experts within agri-food value chains such as engineers and system analysts. In the last three decades Agri-food value chains have become major employers, sources of value addition, and foci for foreign investment in developing countries. This new horizon offers opportunities for research to the agricultural economics and international development research communities.

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