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From commoditisation to de-commoditisation... and back again. Discussing the role of sustainability standards for agricultural products


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  • Daviron, B.
  • Vagneron, I.


Sustainability standards are flooding global agricultural markets. Standards however, are not recent: standards for the exchange of grain and tropical products emerged in the 19th century. The objective of this article is to analyze, in a historical perspective, the implications of the transition from traditional standards to sustainability standards on the commoditization/de-commoditization process. We show how early standards and grades contributed to the construction of the category of products called primary commodities and how, after a short attempt at de-commoditization (with the early fair trade and organic standards), sustainability standards tend towards re-commoditization. ...French Abstract : Dans de nombreux secteurs, les standards durables de produits agricoles envahissent le marché : café respectueux des oiseaux, coton biologique, produits forestiers extraits de forêts gérées de manière durable, huile de palme durable, ananas issus du commerce équitable, bananes éthiques, etc. Dans cette course à la respectabilité environnementale et sociale, les acteurs du secteur privé supplantent progressivement les autorités publiques dans la " qualification " des produits, notamment via la promotion d'écolabels volontaires ou la communication sur les conséquences sociales et environnementales de leurs activités économiques. Cet article se propose d'analyser, dans une perspective historique, la transition observée de standards traditionnels aux standards durables, et de montrer comment cette transition a modifié le statut des produits primaires exportés par de nombreux pays du Sud. Nous défendons l'idée selon laquelle la prolifération actuelle de standards durables risque de se mener à terme à la banalisation des enjeux environnementaux et sociaux et à la dilution de leurs exigences dans une version édulcorée des standards durables qui ne donnerait lieu à aucune prime de prix pour les producteurs tout en restreignant leur accès au marché.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by UMR MOISA : Marchés, Organisations, Institutions et Stratégies d'Acteurs : CIHEAM-IAMM, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro, IRD - Montpellier, France in its series Working Papers MOISA with number 201007.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:umr:wpaper:201007

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Cited by:
  1. Andriani, Pierpaolo & Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, 2011. "Performing comparative advantage: The case of the global coffee business," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 167, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.


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