Internal Event
CGIAR Initiative webinar

Co-evolution of horticultural breeding and product value chains – a Product Cycle Perspective

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CGIAR Research Initiative on Rethinking Food Markets

Imagine all the steps involved in getting fruits and vegetables from the farm to your plate: figuring out how to breed better ones, creating those seeds, multiplying them, getting them to wholesalers and stores, and finally to millions of people around the world. This whole process is like the invisible building blocks that keep our food system healthy and growing.

This talk will focus on how changes in horticulture breeding have “co-evolved” with the expansion and changing operations of horticultural value chains. Transformative changes have taken place around the world in recent decades following a typical “Product Cycle” process. The seminar will explore the practical implications of these dynamic changes along horticulture value chains for policies and future development of horticulture in low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries.

The first phase of the “Product Cycle” is “commoditization” where fruits and vegetable supplies shift from local niche markets to broad - based commodity markets to meet the rapidly growing demand in cities as well as increased demand from low-income households as their diets change with income growth. In the commoditization phase, the development of horticultural breeding value chains is often helped by government support and focuses on agronomic traits for wide diffusion. Public investments in Research & Development & Engineering are crucial in this stage. The second phase of the cycle consists of “product differentiation” involving a shift from horticultural products perceived as “uniform” commodities to differentiated products distinguished by quality traits, such as taste, size, and appearance. These traits become central to the marketing strategies of suppliers and wholesale and retail traders catered mostly to the growing middle classes. Such product differentiation matters a lot to farmers and their income opportunities as well in this differentiation phase, changes in the horticultural breeding value chains tend to be driven by private sector initiative and are becoming increasingly globalized, involving major innovations in technology and industrial organization altering the vertical integration of value chains, and how upstream actors partner with downstream retailers and grower-shippers. Intellectual proprietary rights associated with breeding of different food varieties become an issue in defining production and market access.


The talk will be based on the paper co-authored by Tom Reardon, David Zilberman (UC Berkeley), Karina Gallardo (Washington State University), Rob Vos and Jo Swinnen (IFPRI), and Carl Pray (Rutgers).


Speaker: Thomas Reardon, Professor, Michigan State University and Non-resident Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI

Discussant: Carl E. Pray, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Moderator: Rob Vos, Director, MTI, IFPRI and Lead – Rethinking Markets Initiative