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close this bookExporting High-Value Food Commodities: Success Stories from Developing Countries (WB, 1993, 119 p.)
close this folderII. Economic and institutional issues in the marketing of high-value foods
close this folderGeneric barriers to entry and coordination in food commodity systems
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFood product technical characteristics
View the documentFood commodity production characteristics
View the documentProduction support by marketing enterprises
View the documentProcessing and distribution functions

Food product technical characteristics

2.23 Compared with most other products, food products and raw materials are more bulky and perishable. Bulky commodities generate physical handling and transport problems related to the development and utilization of infrastructure capacities and to potentially high unit logistical costs. For very bulky goods, it may be necessary to establish processing facilities and the attendant power and water supply in close proximity to farm production areas. Perishability limits the marketable life as a fresh commodity and the period of time over which it can be used as raw materials for processing. Commodity perishability greatly limits the marketing flexibility of producers, enhances their market risks, and potentially places them in an unfavorable bargaining position vis-a-vis buyers who have alternative supply sources. Commodity perishability enhances risk of product loss or value decline during transport and storage, may necessitate investment in highly specialized and 'lumpy' transport and storage facilities and equipment, limits the role of storage in balancing supply and demand over time, and raises the risk of contamination in food processing. In addition to these losses or special costs, rapid perishability raises transaction costs since it requires that the raw materials or commodities be repeatedly screened or graded for quality at each level in the commodity system.

2.24 While agricultural commodities are frequently regarded as being relatively homogeneous, food commodities and raw materials do exhibit considerable variability in their quality from unit to unit and from one supply period to another. Food commodities and raw materials tend to have multiple quality attributes, some of which are difficult to measure (or observe), and most of which are valued and weighted differently by specific groups of users and consumers. These features sometimes limit the scope for informative grading, create potential information asymmetries related to quality, and reduce the likelihood that market prices will signal complete information about the quality of these goods.