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academic seminar

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies  (PLAAS) is inviting you to an academic seminar titled Concentration, Competition and the Co-Evolution of Agro-food Capital in South Africa: The Case of the Milling Industry.

The seminar will be facilitated by PLAAS senior researcher Dr. Farai Mtero and presented by Dr. Andrew Bowman from the University of Edinburgh, UK. His presentation will be followed by a discussion by Professor Reena das Nair from the University of Johannesburg.

Small agro-processing enterprises are frequently identified as key drivers of inclusive rural development. However, in the South African context, there are persistent concerns about the high levels of agro-industrial concentration and the limited participation of small enterprises in most food value chains. This paper analyses evolving processes of competition, innovation, and concentration in the milling industry, and its implications for the struggles of small firms in the period since liberalisation reforms in the mid-1990s.

After an initial rush of new entrants immediately after liberalisation, the numbers of industrial milling firms have been declining since the mid-2000s. Larger processing firms have co-evolved with retail and wholesale chains to reach further into rural and township markets that provide shelter for smaller millers. Forms of product and process innovation led by large firms in the transition to more refined, highly-processed products and automated manufacturing systems have widened the gaps between small firms and the technological frontier and raised barriers to entry.

Investments from commercial agriculture and traders have created medium-scale operations that seriously challenge large-scale incumbents, but without significantly altering broader structural inequalities in the food system. Meanwhile, state initiatives to nurture new entrants have been largely unsuccessful. Addressing concentration in agro-processing will require a more coordinated approach to industrial policy than was previously employed.

Seminar details: 
Date: 27 October 2022
Platform: Virtual 
Time:   13:00 – 14:30 (Central African Time)
             12:00 – 13:30 (British Summer Time)
             12:00 – 13:30 West African Time (WAT)
             11:00 Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) (Ghana)
             14:00 East African Time (EAT) (Tanzania)

Click here to register:

Welcome and introduction: Dr. Farai Mtero – 5 minutes
Presentation: Dr. Andrew Bowman – 30 minutes
Discussion: Professor Reena das Nair10 minutes
Question and Answer session – 40 minutes
Closing remarks: Dr. Farai Mtero – 5 minutes

About the speakers

Andrew Bowman pics

Dr. Andrew Bowman

Dr. Andrew Bowman is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies. His research interests include the political economy of development, with a particular focus on industrial policy, agro-industries, and the extractive industries in southern Africa.

At present Dr. Bowman is an investigator on the project Innovation and Inclusion in Agro-Processing, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition, Regulation, and Economic Development, and the Economic and Social Research Foundation in Tanzania. The project seeks to investigate the factors influencing the inclusion of small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises in domestic agro-processing value chains in a context of rapid food system industrialisation, with a particular focus on innovation systems and the political economy of industrial policy.

Reena das Nair photo

Professor Reena das Nair

Prof Reena das Nair is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED) and Associate Professor and Programme Coordinator in the Master of Commerce in Competition and Economic Regulation programme at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Reena has worked for specialist economic consultancy Acacia Economics offering expertise in competition and regulatory economics. She previously worked as a Programme Manager: Industrial Policy at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), a not-for-profit research organisation undertaking research for policymakers. Reena also provides training and capacity building for regulators and competition law and economics professionals in Southern and East Africa.

Her research areas include competition dynamics in the grocery retail sector; and domestic, regional and global value chains in agriculture and agro-processing. Reena holds a PhD (Economics) from the University of Johannesburg and a MCom (Economics) from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Farai Mtero photo

Dr. Farai Mtero

Dr. Farai Mtero is a senior researcher (Land Reform and Inclusive Growth) at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape. His work uses political economy theory and analysis to understand processes of agrarian change in contemporary societies, focusing on the following thematic areas: land and agrarian reform, agro-food systems, rural livelihoods, agrarian change, social differentiation, poverty, and inequality.

Farai’s current research focuses on land reform in South Africa and, specifically, the extent to which redistributive land reform has been pro-poor. More broadly, his research raises critical questions on the role of land reform as a mechanism for social transformation in South Africa. Farai previously led a project on Elite Capture in Land Redistribution in South Africa and he is currently a principal investigator in the Equitable Access to Land for Social Justice research project.

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