In tea production, small-scale processing structures coexist with larger ones.
Photo: J. Boethling

06.12.2012

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Several trends indicate that the significance of large-scale agro-processors in the food value chains of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is going to increase. At the same time, the conditions for a good integration are not particularly favourable. The following article describes where the difficulties are and which principles should be taken into account to accommodate these actors in the African food sector.

Agro-processing (and other post-harvest treatment of agricultural products) is one of the four pillars of agro-business, together with agricultural input supply, machinery and equipment, and services such as finance and trade. In many agro sub-sectors, a trend towards larger units is observed (according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO, an enterprise is considered large if it has more than 100 employees in developing countries and 200 in developed countries).

The reasons are manifold, coming from different sides – consumption, production, and the economic and regulatory framework (keywords: super-marketisation, demand for processed and convenience food, economies of scale, technological progress, fixed costs, health, environmental and social standards and regulation, traceability). These factors are particularly at work in processing for industrial products, but also in many food mass markets.

Trends of large-scale agro-processing in SSA

Large-scale processing, at least in terms of a first processing stage, is common in many export-oriented value chains (e.g.

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