Agri-food Business and Agricultural Trade

Trends in the global business of producing food through agriculture, or 'agri-food' business, have substantial impacts on farmers and workers involved in its production and processing –many of whom are in developing countries. In addition, a number of donors are aiming to connect agriculture to nutrition by making their agricultural projects 'nutrition sensitive' in addition to increasing yields and incomes.

Farmers working for a local agriculture research team plant rice seedlings in a paddy field. Credit: Qilai Shen / Panos

IDS research is exploring the impacts of changes in global agri-food business:

  • Food safety and quality – Businesses face legal requirements to meet ever more stringent public food safety standards and maintain customer confidence at a time when global supply chains are becoming more complex. We are examining how stricter food safety and quality standards, both public and private, have the potential to exclude developing countries from international trade
  • Trade structures – We are looking at value chains for processed agri-food products, and considering whether these provide greater scope to include more small-scale producers.
  • Standards compliance – We are exploring how a global value chain framework can be used to improve capacity-building efforts directed at compliance with food safety and quality standards in international trade.
  • Agriculture and nutrition partnerships – Our Partnering for Better Food project aims to identify and support scalable public-private innovative partnerships in developing countries that bridge the gaps between agriculture and nutrition programmes to improve nutrition for the poor and undernourished.

African Farmer Game

African Farmer is a free, open source game that simulates the complex decisions and uncertainties faced by small-scale farmers living in Sub-Saharan Africa. More details

Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA)

Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) is a five-year, DFID-funded, research programme consortium which aims to produce new evidence and policy insights into different pathways to agricultural commercialisation in Africa and their differential outcomes for local people and economies. More details

Assessing the Impacts of Enhancing Access to Nutritious Foods

The objective of the research is to develop capacity and an analytical approach for the analysis of value chains-based initiatives aimed at enhancing access and consumption of nutritious foods by the poor and to use this learning to develop research proposals on leveraging value chains for nutrition. More details

Framework for Assessing the Impacts of Efforts to Enhance Access to Nutritious Foods

The objective of this research is to develop capacity and an analytical approach for the analysis of value chains-based initiatives aimed at enhancing access and consumption of nutritious foods by the poor and to use this learning to develop research proposals on leveraging value chains for nutrition. More details

Increasing Transparency in Smallholder Supply Chains: Comparing Approaches to Monitoring Performance of Investments and Private Sector Participation

For this DfID-funded project, we will be providing a synthesis of the types of monitoring, evaluation and data being used by investors and the private sector in agricultural supply chains in a developing country context. More details

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Agriculture: Enabling Factors and Impact on the Rural Poor

This research will identify the key factors driving the effectivness of public-private partnerships (PPPs) at bringing sustained increases in income for smallholder farmers at scale and delivering positive development outcomes across rural communities. More details

Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems

This project will examine potential pathways for transitioning to more sustainable food systems in order to contribute to improved ecological, economic, social and nutritional outcomes. More details

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Realising the Potential of Agribusiness to Reduce Youth Unemployment in Ethiopia

IDS Policy Briefing 153 (2018)

Agribusiness in Ethiopia has grown significantly in the last 20 years, and this growth is set to continue. This transition presents opportunities to address the country’s high youth unemployment and for agribusinesses to participate in global, regional, and local markets. More details

Linking smallholder farmers to markets on extensive and intensive margins: Evidence from Nicaragua - teaser picture

Linking Smallholder Farmers to Markets on Extensive and Intensive Margins: Evidence from Nicaragua

Access to modern commercialization channels is key for smallholder farmers to move away from subsistence farming and overcome poverty. However, achieving that goal is challenging for smallholders given their lack of appropriate managerial practices, production technology and infrastructure. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Heirloom Rice in Ifugao: An 'Anti-Commodity' in the Process of Commodification

The Journal of Peasant Studies (2017)

‘Heirloom rice’ is a boundary concept that enables social entrepreneurs to commodify traditional landraces. More details


State–Business Relations Beyond Growth: Bringing in Development

IDS Evidence Report 215 (2016)

The signatories of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have called on a wide range of businesses ‘to apply their creativity and innovation’ to address sustainable development challenges. Yet the role of business in contributing to development depends profoundly on its interaction with the state. This paper asks how states and businesses interact in different contexts to shape development outcomes. More details

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The Political Economy of Sugar in Southern Africa: Introduction

Journal of Southern African Studies (2016)

In this introductory paper we review historic and contemporary development of sugar cane production across the southern Africa. We argue that the region’s sugar industry provides a useful lens through which to understand current dynamics of corporate capital and agricultural production in Africa. More details

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A New Politics of Development Cooperation? Chinese and Brazilian Engagements in African Agriculture

World Development 81 (2016)

The paper asks if a new paradigm for development cooperation is emerging, and argues that we must move beyond the simplistic narratives of either 'South–South' collaboration or “neo-imperial” expansion of “rising powers” to look at the dynamic and contested politics of engagement, as new forms of capital and technology enter African contexts. More details


Markets for Nutrient-rich Foods: Policy Synthesis from Three Country Studies

IDS Evidence Report 161 (2015)

This Evidence Report examines the potential for and limitations of promoting business and market-based approaches to reducing undernutrition through increasing the availability and accessibility of nutrient-rich foods for the undernourished. More details

IDS Evidence Report 141 Front cover

Food, Markets and Nutrition: Maximising the Impacts of Private Sector Engagement in Tanzania. Case Studies and Key Messages from the Workshop

IDS Evidence Report 141 (2015)

This report summarises the findings of a workshop for representatives of the Tanzanian government, development partners, civil society and private sector organisations, hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on 30 March 2015. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Markets for Nutrition: What Role for Business?

IDS Bulletin 46.3 (2015)

This article examines how this might be achieved, drawing lessons from three intervention types: ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs), mandatory fortification and voluntarily fortified products. More details

Event briefing for IDS-organised parliamentary event entitled "Good for business and poor people? The role of the private sector in tackling undernutrition"

10 things we know about markets, food and nutrition

A look at what works and what doesn't in terms of interventions by governments, donors and businesses to tackle undernutrition. More details

Publication cover for the GAIN-IDS Discussion Paper Nutritious Agriculture by Design: A Tool for Program Planning.

Nutritious Agriculture by Design: A Tool for Program Planning - a GAIN-IDS Discussion Paper

This Discussion Paper accompanies a new Program Planning tool entitled Nutritious Agriculture by Design. The tool places a nutritional focus on agricultural programmes by providing a framework for programme designers and implementers to guide and adjust agricultural interventions through improved linkages with nutrition. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Codex Alimentarius and Private Standards

A key trend in the governance of global agri-food value chains in the last 10 to 15 years is the increasing prevalence of private standards. This chapter focuses on private standards relating to food safety, whilst recognising that private standards also govern other attributes of agri-food products. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Top 100 Questions of Importance to the Future of Global Agriculture

International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 8.4 (2010)

Despite a significant growth in food production over the past half-century, one of the most important challenges facing society today is how to feed an expected population of some nine billion by the middle of the 20th century. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Understanding the Complexities of Private Standards in Global Agri-Food Chains as They Impact Developing Countries

Journal of Development Studies 46.9 (2010)

The increasing prevalence of private standards governing food safety, food quality and environmental and social impacts of agri-food systems has raised concerns about the effects on developing countries, as well as the governance of agri-food value chains more broadly. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Future of the Global Food System

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 365.1554 (2010)
IDS publications on international development research

Fairtrade Bananas: A Global Assessment of Impact

When the idea of conversion of the conventional banana trade to a more sustainable system under the Fairtrade label was first raised in the Windward Islands in the late 1990s, there was much scepticism about the viability of the idea. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Small-scale Farmer Participation in New Agri-Food Supply Chains

Journal of International Development 21.7 (2009)
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