Københavns Universitet
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PhD thesis defense

Sinne Borby Ørtenblad, IGN, defends her thesis at Geography Section

PhD thesis defense — Sinne Borby Ørtenblad on 5 JULY


Date & Time:


Hosted by:
Geolgraphy Section, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 CPH K


Sinne Borby Ørtenblad defends her thesis,

Despite the ‘Supermarket Revolution’
An Exploration of Dynamics in Agri-Food Value Chains in Thailand and Implications for Smallholders, Traders and Flows of Produce

Via Zoom

Associate Professor Marianne Nylandsted Larsen, IGN

Assessment Committee:
Professor Javier Revilla Diez, University of Cologne – Germany
Professor Alexandra Hughes, Newcastle University – UK
Professor Niels Fold (chair), IGN

This PhD thesis is an exploration of dynamics in so-called traditional and modern value chains for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Global South. During the last three decades, large international, modern, food retailers (supermarkets) have spread to many countries in the Global South. This is also the case in Thailand, where the study is located. Although the supermarkets have spread to the whole country, traditional wet market are still highly important as a place for providing fresh food for a large number of Thai consumers. The project analytically draws on the ‘global value chain’ approach, more specifically on chain governance and upgrading – or in other words how economic transactions and relations are coordinated and the opportunities for participants and actors in the system to improve their situation.
The research reveals that the modern and traditional value chains for the studied crops in Thailand are co-existing and not separated into two distinct value chains, where one is ‘modern’ and highly controlled due to strict requirements for the products and another is traditional and more informal and less controlled. This is contrary to what has often been found previously. The implications of this finding are first that the smallholder farmers producing the crops and traders associated with the traditional markets are not excluded from selling to the supermarkets, although they are not able to sell directly to them and are still subject to greater bargaining power of the supermarkets. The opportunity to combine different sales channels can act as a buffer in a relatively unstable and insecure industry. Second, products, and parts of products, that cannot be sold in supermarkets due to their higher requirements can often be sold in these traditional markets. This can have positive consequences for reducing the amounts of unsold produce. The thesis argues that global value chain analysis should pay more attention to actors’ perspectives in order to better understand how they can be integrated most inclusively into different markets. The thesis has also found that social relations and networks are highly important for the ways that the value chains are coordinated and for the actors’ strategies for improving their situation beyond just getting higher prices for their produce.

A digital version of the PhD thesis can be obtained from the PhD secretary Mikala Heckscher at mikala@ign.ku.dk