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Farmers’ self-reported bargaining power and price heterogeneity: Evidence from the dairy supply chain

Jan Fałkowski (Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland)
Agata Malak-Rawlikowska (Faculty of Economic Sciences, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland)
Dominika Milczarek-Andrzejewska (Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development, Warsaw, Poland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 7 August 2017



While it is commonly argued that food supply chains are characterized by severe imbalances of power between contracting parties, there is an insufficient understanding of the factors affecting the negotiating position of farmers. The purpose of this paper is to provide quantitative evidence documenting the position of farmers and to explain variation in farm gate prices in the dairy supply chain by using unique micro-survey data from Poland.


The bargaining power of farmers is elicited from their self-reported assessment about how confident they feel in their relationships with both the processing industry and input suppliers.


Using econometric modelling, it is shown that farmers who perceive themselves as having a relatively “strong position” in the food chain receive a higher milk price from dairy companies.

Research limitations/implications

While this result comes with some caveats, it suggests that the self-reported beliefs farmers hold about relations with their contractors may reveal additional insights into the distribution of power throughout the food chain.


Compared to the existing studies, the paper offers two innovations. First, to construct a proxy for farmers’ bargaining power, their subjective opinion on how easy they could be substituted for by their contractors is used. In effect, the paper goes beyond the standard measures which focus on farm size or its location. Second, it investigates farmers’ relationships vis-à-vis both processing industry and input suppliers. Consequently, this paper is the first to analyze power relationships by explicitly taking into account three stages of the supply chain.



The research was conducted within the Seventh EU Framework Programme project titled COMPETE (International comparisons of product supply chains in the agri-food sectors: determinants of their competitiveness and performance on EU and international markets) and co-financed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Republic of Poland. The authors would like to thank seminar and conference participants in Brussels, Gaeta, Igls, Koszalin, Perugia, Portoroz, Prague, Seville, and Warsaw for helpful comments.


Fałkowski, J., Malak-Rawlikowska, A. and Milczarek-Andrzejewska, D. (2017), "Farmers’ self-reported bargaining power and price heterogeneity: Evidence from the dairy supply chain", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 8, pp. 1672-1686.



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