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Title: Smallholder tea producer experiences of Voluntary Private Standards
Author: Murray, Andrea Clare
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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I analyse smallholder tea producer experiences of dual-certification to Fairtrade and Organic Voluntary Private Standards (VPSs). Dual-certification represented a gold-standard in pro-development certifications, implying alignment between the standards and producer priorities. Yet certification required smallholders to implement two different and challenging standards simultaneously, and the smallholder category was heterogeneous. Gaps in knowledge persisted regarding smallholder implementation of dual-certification in South Indian tea. The main contribution of this research was empirical, investigating 1) reasons for the extension of dual-certification, 2) implications for export-market access and 3) conflicts of practice with norms among tea farmers. I adopted an agricultural marketing network scope to tether Global Value Chain analytical tools into producer contexts. This maintained the connection of producers with global tea buyers and global standards, contributing to understanding the exercises of power by institutions. This research examined the context of South Indian tea, identifying tea production and marketing networks of industry actors, local institutions, industry conventions and Fairtrade-Organic governance. The use of secondary data was complimented by qualitative techniques. I used a case study approach, recruiting one Fairtrade-Organic, dual-certified producer group and one non-certified producer group of smallholders. I sampled key power nodes in networks to generate interview data with key agents including farmers, producer group managers, tea buyers, standard setters and background institution informants. I held 40 interviews with 60 participants during 7 months in South India and the UK.Global Value Chain analysis represented the founding framework that considered standards as governing production and trade in certified commodities. GVC approaches analysed the distribution of benefits and market access between actors in GVCs. Powerful lead firms controlled chain coordination, shaped competition, market access and costs of compliance. The sociological redefinition of power led to standards theorised as legitimated conceptions of the good, the fair and the environmental, with attention turning to producer accounts of governance and standards. The thesis contributes to a growing literature highlighting agency, governmentality, and powers of institutions, in GVCs. Global standards were expressions of fragmented power in governmentality. I analysed accounts of the extension of dual-certification, attendant changes to market access and performances of implementation, seeing through farmers‘ eyes. I derived from data 3 empirical contributions. Firstly, producer institutions and gatekeepers exercised power by affecting smallholder certifications. Yet smallholders were purposeful agents who drove their certification statuses. Secondly, certification did not define market access; quality remained paramount. Fairtrade-Organic standards carried definitions of quality that were intangible, taking the ascertainment of leaf quality from the hands of farmers. Finally, smallholder agent behaviours were analysed as negotiations of Fairtrade-Organic and tea industry valuations of good tea practices. Standards were not pre-defined, bringing compliance costs; rather, Fairtrade-Organic existed in, was constituted by, smallholder performances. Attempts to enhance the legitimacy of FLO governance by aligning standards with producer priorities involved producer regional forums. Alignment was skewed by FLO‘s failure to distinguish smallholder from plantation priorities. This parallels a pro-market pragmatism about the future of Fairtrade.
Supervisor: Rigby, Daniel; Olsen, Wendy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Smallholders; Voluntary Private Standards; Tea