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Fairtrade and market failures in agricultural commodity markets

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  • Ronchi, Loraine
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    Abstract

    This paper concerns an NGO intervention in agricultural commodity markets known as Fairtrade. Fairtrade pays producers a minimum unit price and provides capacity building support to member cooperative organizations. Fairtrade's organizational capacity support targets those factors believed to reduce the commodity producer's share of returns. Specifically, Fairtrade justifies its intervention in markets like coffee by claiming that market power and a lack of capacity in producer organizations'marks down'the prices producers receive. As the market share of Fairtrade coffee grows in importance, its intervention in commodity markets is of increasing interest. Using an original data set collected from fieldwork in Costa Rica, this paper assesses the role of Fairtrade in overcoming the market factors it claims limits producer returns. Features of the Costa Rican input market for coffee permit a generalization of the results. The empirical results find that market power is a limiting factor in the Costa Rican market and that Fairtrade does improve the efficiency of cooperatives, thereby increasing the returns to producers. These results do not depend on the minimum price policy of Fairtrade and therefore can inform on its organizational support activities. Finally, the results also suggest that producers selling to vertically integrated, multinational coffee mills face lower producer price'mark-downs'compared with domestically owned non-cooperative mills. This result contradicts the popular view that the increasing concentration of vertically integrated multinational firms accounts for a decline in producers'share of coffee returns.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4011.

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    Date of creation: 01 Sep 2006
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4011

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    Keywords: Markets and Market Access; Crops&Crop Management Systems; Access to Markets; Commodities; Economic Theory&Research;

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    Cited by:
    1. Barham, Bradford L. & Callenes, Mercedez & Gitter, Seth & Lewis, Jessa & Weber, Jeremy, 2011. "Fair Trade/Organic Coffee, Rural Livelihoods, and the "Agrarian Question": Southern Mexican Coffee Families in Transition," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 134-145, January.
    2. Balineau, Gaëlle, 2013. "Disentangling the Effects of Fair Trade on the Quality of Malian Cotton," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 241-255.

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