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Improving small farmer participation in export marketing channels: perceptions of US fresh produce importers

Julie V. Stanton (Department of Marketing, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Tim J. Burkink (Department of Marketing/MIS, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, Nebraska, USA)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to identify important elements of a strategy to facilitate small farmer participation in international supply chains for fresh produce.


The study employs survey data collected from a national sample of US fresh produce importers. Their concerns and suggestions regarding potential for transactions with small Mexican farmers were assessed, with factor analysis providing a thematic summary of their perspectives.


Results of the study reveal that US importers are not uniformly pessimistic about the ability of small farmers to meet their demands. On the contrary, almost one‐third said they probably would work with small farmers in the near future. In general, importers are interested in transactions in which the product meets consumer and government expectations and is grown on the buyer's terms, the grower is reliable over time, the transaction is simplified, and the grower handles transportation. Importers rate small farmers poorly on their ability to achieve the last two factors, but these are also the items rated least important to the importers. New approaches to building market capacity in small farmers are also highly valued by the importers, including government investment guarantees, and arrangements for facilitating contact between importers and growers. More traditional methods, such as cooperatives and use of brokers, were not rated as highly.

Research limitations/implications

The study relies on cross‐sectional, self‐report data from one side of the grower/importer dyad. Incorporating longitudinal data with a dyadic perspective could provide additional insight.


A practitioner perspective on the challenges in international fruit and vegetable supply chains, particularly as relates to developing countries, is of considerable value. Not only can governments choose improved policies for improving market readiness for the growers, but also members of supply chains themselves can identify tactics for ensuring successful transactions by enhancing coordination. The prospects for a win‐win outcome for growers and importers are improved.



Stanton, J.V. and Burkink, T.J. (2008), "Improving small farmer participation in export marketing channels: perceptions of US fresh produce importers", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 199-210.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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