Brewing a Bitter Cup? Deregulation, Quality and the Re-organization of Coffee Marketing in East Africa

Stefano Ponte*

*Corresponding author for this work

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To what extent is global economic change mediated by national-level policies? Are global corporations adopting the same strategies in different countries or do they address varying local circumstances in different ways? Do governments in developing countries have any meaningful regulatory powers left? This paper seeks to address some of these issues by examining the dynamics of coffee-market reforms in three East African countries against the background of recent restructuring of the global coffee-marketing chain. The paper focuses on two relatively neglected areas of inquiry: (1) changes in the identity, market share and organization of the actors involved in commodity markets and their contractual/power relationships in the marketing chain; and (2) changes in the assessment, monitoring and valuation of quality parameters in commodity trade. The author highlights the consequences of different trajectories of domestic market reforms and considers whether the preservation of quality and reputation is possible in deregulated markets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)248-272
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Coffee
  • East Africa
  • Global commodity chains
  • Market liberalization

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