Rome, 8 October
Small farmers in Africa risk being swept out
of agriculture by a wave of supermarket expansion unless they
can participate in the new market, FAO warned on Wednesday.
"If we don't help small
farmers tap into the supply game and become players in this new
market they will be left on the sidelines," said
FAO's Kostas Stamoulis, "It could be
At an FAO workshop
on globalization, urbanization and food systems in developing
countries Thomas Reardon, of Michigan State University, argued
that the rapid proliferation of supermarkets across East and
Southern Africa was transforming the food systems which form the
economic backbone of many developing countries.
Changes to the supply and distribution of produce in
countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia,
Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland will have a direct impact on the
lives of millions of small farmers, he said.
It may force them out of farming unless they are able
to supply what supermarkets demand, he added.
Despite the traditional image of the supermarket as
the shopping store of the middle class, the larger-scale format
is spreading through urban centres and even rural towns across
Africa, rapidly catering for the urban poor.
In South Africa, for example, supermarkets already
account for more than 55 percent of national food retail. Their
impact can be felt in the fruit and vegetable market in the
region which has become integrated into a single, larger market.
"There has been an explosion in
the number of supermarkets in parts of Southern and Eastern
Africa over the past five to ten years," Reardon
"Kenya alone has some
200 supermarkets and 10 hypermarkets, equivalent in sales to
some 90 000 small shops and accounting for up to 30 percent of
food retail in the country," he said.
"Supermarkets in Kenya are already buying
three times more produce from local farmers than Kenya exports
to the rest of the world."
Propelled by the forces of globalization and
urbanization, the rise of supermarkets across the developing
world is an inevitable reality, FAO's Stamoulis said.
In the year 2000 nearly two billion people
lived in cities and this number is expected to more than double
by 2030 according to UN figures.
increasing number of city dwellers will depend on supermarkets
rather than traditional markets as their main food source.
And the rise of supermarkets in the
developing world is rapid. Farming
for a new market
steep increase in the pace of urbanization combined with
globalization and the influx of foreign direct investment mean
that Africa will see far more dramatic changes in its food
supply system than we have seen in developed
countries," Stamoulis said.
According to FAO, farmers need to have the resources
and training to be able to actively participate in the rapidly
transforming domestic market.
assistance might include:
organizing cooperatives and effective associations in order to
be able to meet the scale and volume needed to supply a
schemes to obtain the technology needed to be able to meet the
stringent quality and safety standards demanded
- Stamoulis said that
supermarket expansion should also be seen as an opportunity for
small firms and farmers if they are enabled to
dissemination to place farmers in a stronger position ahead of
"The onslaught of
supermarkets will improve the quality and safety of food sold
locally as farmers strive to meet supermarket's quality
standards for the domestic market," he said.
And raising the quality of produce sold on
the domestic market would make it easier for countries to
export, Stamoulis said.
added, could provide a stable, dependable market for
farmers' produce, may boost employment in cities and
surrounding areas by providing jobs in transport and
distribution. In addition, it will also improve the quality and
lower the price of food for urban populations.
Jobs might also be lost along the way, he added,
explaining that the net effect would vary case by case.
"This is also an opportunity for
the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and
international development organizations to work
together," Stamoulis said,
"We cannot stop change but we can shape
FAO Press Office
(+39) 06 570