Governance and upgrading in export grape global production networks in India

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Global production networks (GPNs) are the norm in many export sectors of developing world economies like India. High-value crops, including horticultural crops and produce, are seen as candidates for exploiting global market opportunities. Indian agriculture and agribusiness are being increasingly incorporated into these GPNs. However, understanding of the dynamics and implications of this incorporation is limited in terms of research and documentation, especially from a smallholder and worker perspective. Given the smallholder dominance of the farm sector in countries like India, it is important to understand the organization and dynamics of GPNs for livelihoods of farmers and other value chain workers in terms of upgrading opportunities. It is true that global value chains (GVCs) or GPNs can be vehicles for achieving primary producer and worker wellbeing, but, at the same time, traditional pressures of costs and efficiency in competitive markets can also lead to pressures for a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of labor standards in farms and factories. This paper examines the GPNs of fresh grapes for export to supermarkets. It aims to understand the significance of standards in farms and packhouses in buyer-driven GPNs. It relies on primary case studies of exporting firms; packhouse operators and facilitators; and supplying farmers, as well as workers on farms and in packhouses. It examines the nature of smallholder inclusion and the labor linkage in these global food networks, especially labor conditions at work, that is, in packhouses and farms, and the gender dimensions of labor use. It finds a prevalence of standards, including Globalgap, at some levels in these GPNs, but these are not enforced at the lower ends of the networks, that is, on farms. Small producers are able to participate in GPNs, either through membership of a cooperative or a primary marketing organization (PMO) and are often supported by public agencies in many ways. Given the increasing feminization of farm and agro-processing work in these production networks, there are issues of gender differentiation and discrimination and gendering of tasks, alongside issues of work conditions and labor rights. There has been economic upgrading of facilitators and farmers in terms of higher volumes of business and more exportable produce, and of some categories of workers, like those in packhouses, in terms of better wages and facilities, but social upgrading is not that common. The paper tries to understand the above issues in terms of global and local factors, to provide insights to help generate more relevant standards, governance and upgrading possibilities.