Global and regional supermarkets are expanding in Africa, Asia and Latin America, expanding value chains for the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV). Yet commercial pressures are contributing to the casualization of workers and the exclusion of smaller producers. Meeting supermarket demands and standards requires more skilled and empowered workers, and many are exiting agriculture for better opportunities elsewhere. However, there are now new opportunities for workers and small producers to ‘climb the value chain ladder’. Complementary public–private strategies are needed to promote skills upgrading, enhance the appeal of horticulture and support the resilience of FFV value chains.