Upcoming Report: Concentration and power in agri-food systems

The need to comprehensively assess the impacts of corporate concentration within the agri-food sector has never been more pressing. While concentration is a long-standing feature of the agricultural sector, it has dramatically escalated since the 1980s –with 2015 deemed the “biggest year ever for mergers and acquisitions” (Farrell, 2015). Since 2015, three impending high-profile deals have faced justifiable public concern and increased regulatory scrutiny in the US and EU, including the $130 billion merger between US agro-chemical giants, Dow and DuPont, Bayer’s $66 billion buyout of Monsanto, and ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta for $43 billion. These deals alone could place almost two-thirds of the agrochemical industry in the hands of only three merged companies (Dow-DuPont, Bayer-Monsanto and ChemChina-Syngenta), and serve as only a few examples of deals proliferating at both the “field” and “fork” ends of the industrial food chain.

To address the complexity of these trends, we adopt a political economy approach to analyze the extent to which concentration is occurring in different agri-food sectors, the impacts of this concentration, and the possible solutions to redress power imbalances within the food system. The report is therefore structured around the following three questions:

  • What is the current state of concentration in different agri-food sectors?
  • What are the impacts of this concentration?
  • How might power in food systems be rebalanced to support fairer, more sustainable food systems?

The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argued.

An initial brief of the report can be found here (Oct. 2016).

Related activities

IPES-Food co-chair, Olivier De Schutter, and report lead, Pat Mooney, shared their views on the impact of mega-mergers on food security in an article published by the Guardian on September 26, 2016.