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Producer organizations and contract farming: a comparative study of smallholders’ market strategies in South India

Inka Gersch


The fundamental restructuring processes of agri-food networks in developing and emerging markets have intensified the debate on how to improve the integration of smallholders into so called modern value chains. In this context, the company-driven contract farming model and the member-based model of producer organizations are discussed by practitioners and in the scholarly literature as alternatives to traditional market systems. This study compares the models’ abilities to address economic challenges of highly fragmented and small-scale dominated agriculture on a household as well as on an aggregate level. It analyzes empirical data from the Indian floriculture sector with the global value chain approach. The study reveals that the smallholders perceive both contract farming and producer organization to be beneficial for their households’ economic risk situation, while only the producer organization has a positive effect on the households’ income. The contract farming benefits production and value chain efficiency, whereas the producer organization does not show an impact in these respects. We thus observe that the contract farming model increases value creation in the overall chain, but it does not raise the producer’s value capture; while the producer organization model does not heighten value creation in the overall chain, but it lifts the producers’ value capture. The organization’s individual capabilities determine how each model addresses the economic challenges. Overall, the author argues that contract farming and producer organizations are supplementing, not competitive, strategies and should be applied in combination.


The author would like to thank Martina Fuchs and Martin Franz for their support and the anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Received: 2017-7-11
Accepted: 2017-12-10
Published Online: 2018-1-26
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

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