Corporations

GRAIN’s central focus is to support social movements across the world in their resistance to the growing corporate control over food production, markets and trade. We undertake research on how corporations – including agribusiness, large retail and the finance industry – displace millions of small-scale food producers and how trade and investment deals impose the legal conditions for it. 

Apart from our information work, we also support the efforts of partners and peoples’ movements to improve strategies, cooperation and popular action to challenge corporate power, and build capacity with them to achieve this.

Summary report of the public seminar "Supermarkets: today’s food source - Trends and impact"

The growth of the supermarket sector has been very rapid. Today, 30 global supermarket chains already control a third of the global retail food market, taking a huge share of the market of the food that the people around the world eat.  This is not just a modern trend, an evolution of the way things are sold.  Their vast expansion has been supported and promoted by Free Trade Agreements, investment liberalisation, government policies to promote foreign direct investment, and laws and regulations that make it more difficult for small-scale food systems to continue to operate. Supermarket distribution systems - just like the industrial farming system that produces the bulk raw materials that go into the cheap processed foods lining their shelves - are being tremendously subsidised by governments, using tax payers money.  

The growth of the supermarket sector has been very rapid. Today, 30 global supermarket chains already control a third of the global retail food market, taking a huge share of the market of the food that the people around the world eat.  This is not just a modern trend, an evolution of the way things are sold.  Their vast expansion has been supported and promoted by Free Trade Agreements, investment liberalisation, government policies to promote foreign direct investment, and laws and regulations that make it more difficult for small-scale food systems to continue to operate. Supermarket distribution systems - just like the industrial farming system that produces the bulk raw materials that go into the cheap processed foods lining their shelves - are being tremendously subsidised by governments, using tax payers money.  

Modern retail and market concentration in Thailand

In Thailand, the development of modern retail puts consumers and farmers at a loss. According to BioThai, 75 percent of the price of a banana sold in a modern retail outlet goes to the retailer and its suppliers, while only 25 percent goes to the farmer. Moreover, the price of a banana in Thailand is almost the same as the price of one sold in Europe, where 80 percent of the price goes to the retailers and towards import taxes.  

In Thailand, the development of modern retail puts consumers and farmers at a loss. According to BioThai, 75 percent of the price of a banana sold in a modern retail outlet goes to the retailer and its suppliers, while only 25 percent goes to the farmer. Moreover, the price of a banana in Thailand is almost the same as the price of one sold in Europe, where 80 percent of the price goes to the retailers and towards import taxes.  

Top e-commerce companies move into retail

Electronic commerce is expanding rapidly into food distribution and retail across Asia. In particular, the emergence of online food delivery services is generating significant changes to farm-to-fork food supply chains. Yet very few countries have regulations covering online food distribution, including food safety and health hazards, or even regulations covering cross-border e-commerce for food. Some of the world's largest e-commerce and retail companies are moving aggressively to take control of and expand online food retail, with major implications for local food systems, small vendors and farmers.

Electronic commerce is expanding rapidly into food distribution and retail across Asia. In particular, the emergence of online food delivery services is generating significant changes to farm-to-fork food supply chains. Yet very few countries have regulations covering online food distribution, including food safety and health hazards, or even regulations covering cross-border e-commerce for food. Some of the world's largest e-commerce and retail companies are moving aggressively to take control of and expand online food retail, with major implications for local food systems, small vendors and farmers.

Daewoo's overseas agribusiness expansion

Ten years ago, headlines around the world reported the shocking news that a subsidiary of Daewoo Logistics called Madagascar Future Enterprise Corp., was negotiating a 99-year lease with the government of Madagascar for 1.3 million hectares of arable land – almost half of the country’s arable land. Their plan was to grow corn and oil palm in four regions of the island for shipment back to South Korea to produce animal feed and biofuel respectively. Today, far from the 1999 bankruptcy of Daewoo Motors, South Korea’s Daewoo is one of world’s largest transnational conglomerates and continues to expand a business empire that extends from manufacturing and trade to natural resources like oil and gas, minerals and food. 

Ten years ago, headlines around the world reported the shocking news that a subsidiary of Daewoo Logistics called Madagascar Future Enterprise Corp., was negotiating a 99-year lease with the government of Madagascar for 1.3 million hectares of arable land – almost half of the country’s arable land. Their plan was to grow corn and oil palm in four regions of the island for shipment back to South Korea to produce animal feed and biofuel respectively. Today, far from the 1999 bankruptcy of Daewoo Motors, South Korea’s Daewoo is one of world’s largest transnational conglomerates and continues to expand a business empire that extends from manufacturing and trade to natural resources like oil and gas, minerals and food. 

Supermarket Watch Asia Bulletin reviewed: subscribe now

It has been two years since we first published this quarterly information bulletin about developments in the food retail and distribution sector in Asia. A few months ago, we thought it was time to assess whether the bulletin served its purpose and how it could improve. So we decided to run a survey and dedicate this issue to sharing some of its results.

It has been two years since we first published this quarterly information bulletin about developments in the food retail and distribution sector in Asia. A few months ago, we thought it was time to assess whether the bulletin served its purpose and how it could improve. So we decided to run a survey and dedicate this issue to sharing some of its results.

Supermarkets, transnational supply chains and labour rights’ abuses

According to different sources, transnational supply chains currently account for 30 to 60 per cent of all global trade, and depend on the work of over 100 million workers globally. On average, companies relying on transnational supply chains only directly hire 6 per cent of the labour force they actually employ. The rest is “outsourced”, often scattered across several countries and amongst thousands of suppliers.

According to different sources, transnational supply chains currently account for 30 to 60 per cent of all global trade, and depend on the work of over 100 million workers globally. On average, companies relying on transnational supply chains only directly hire 6 per cent of the labour force they actually employ. The rest is “outsourced”, often scattered across several countries and amongst thousands of suppliers.

New free trade agreements: normalising the brutality of transnational supply chains

The new wave of free trade agreements, written by and for corporate interests, provides little or no benefits for workers, communities, or the environment. Provisions being laid in these new trade deals turn most developing countries into sources of cheap and unprotected labour for transnational companies. Labour rights are being redefined in a way that allows transnational companies to impose brutal working conditions. Once these agreements are signed and ratified, the only legal protection that will fully stand is the abolition of slavery. All other labour rights will be disposable at the companies’ discretion under a wide range of circumstances. 

The new wave of free trade agreements, written by and for corporate interests, provides little or no benefits for workers, communities, or the environment. Provisions being laid in these new trade deals turn most developing countries into sources of cheap and unprotected labour for transnational companies. Labour rights are being redefined in a way that allows transnational companies to impose brutal working conditions. Once these agreements are signed and ratified, the only legal protection that will fully stand is the abolition of slavery. All other labour rights will be disposable at the companies’ discretion under a wide range of circumstances. 

RCEP in India: A creamy deal for transnational dairy corporations, growing resistance from farmers

India is being cornered to open up its markets at the ongoing negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). A free trade agreement between 16 Asian countries, including massive manufacturers like China, RCEP will bring down import duties to zero on goods, both agricultural and industrial, for more than 92 per cent of tariff lines. Being the world’s largest trade agreement, it will impact half of the world’s population including 420 million small family farms that produce 80 per cent of Asia’s food.

India is being cornered to open up its markets at the ongoing negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). A free trade agreement between 16 Asian countries, including massive manufacturers like China, RCEP will bring down import duties to zero on goods, both agricultural and industrial, for more than 92 per cent of tariff lines. Being the world’s largest trade agreement, it will impact half of the world’s population including 420 million small family farms that produce 80 per cent of Asia’s food.

Behind Amazon's acquisition over Whole Foods: the next phase of food distribution

In June 2017, Amazon, the world’s third largest e-commerce company, announced its acquisition over Whole Foods Market for US$ 13.7 billion. Amazon’s move seems to follow the footsteps of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company that invested US$ 1.25 billion in buying the Chinese online food delivery service Ele.me in late 2015. 

In June 2017, Amazon, the world’s third largest e-commerce company, announced its acquisition over Whole Foods Market for US$ 13.7 billion. Amazon’s move seems to follow the footsteps of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company that invested US$ 1.25 billion in buying the Chinese online food delivery service Ele.me in late 2015. 

Colonialism's new clothes: The EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements with Africa

Since 2002, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have negotiated a reciprocal free trade agreement known as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). While it was marketed as the magic bullet towards the ACP countries’ industrialisation and development, it is in fact an unfair agreement that is anchored in a colonial framework. Though not highly publicised, the EPA has faced continued opposition from across the ACP countries, not least because of its devastating effect on small scale farmers. The case of some African countries presented here is illustrative of the way communities are fighting to regain control over their resources and protect their markets from the flooding of cheap EU processed foods, along with pesticides and genetically modified organisms. 

Since 2002, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have negotiated a reciprocal free trade agreement known as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). While it was marketed as the magic bullet towards the ACP countries’ industrialisation and development, it is in fact an unfair agreement that is anchored in a colonial framework. Though not highly publicised, the EPA has faced continued opposition from across the ACP countries, not least because of its devastating effect on small scale farmers. The case of some African countries presented here is illustrative of the way communities are fighting to regain control over their resources and protect their markets from the flooding of cheap EU processed foods, along with pesticides and genetically modified organisms. 

Highlights from the Peoples’ Summit against FTAs and RCEP

Hundreds of people gathered in Hyderabad, India, between 22 and 26 July 2017, in opposition to the 19th round of negotiations of the 16-nation Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 

Hundreds of people gathered in Hyderabad, India, between 22 and 26 July 2017, in opposition to the 19th round of negotiations of the 16-nation Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 

How RCEP affects food and farmers

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional trade deal being negotiated among 16 countries across Asia-Pacific. If adopted, RCEP will cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food. RCEP is expected to create powerful new rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. Several RCEP countries are also part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another mega-regional agreement setting some of the most pro-big business terms seen in trade and investment deals so far. While the fate of the TPP is uncertain, these two agreements may have to co-exist and there is pressure to align them on numerous points. What will this mean for food and farmers in the region?  

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional trade deal being negotiated among 16 countries across Asia-Pacific. If adopted, RCEP will cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food. RCEP is expected to create powerful new rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. Several RCEP countries are also part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another mega-regional agreement setting some of the most pro-big business terms seen in trade and investment deals so far. While the fate of the TPP is uncertain, these two agreements may have to co-exist and there is pressure to align them on numerous points. What will this mean for food and farmers in the region?  

Cambodia: communities in protracted struggle against Chinese sugar companies’ land grab

A new report exposes the devastating consequences of land grabs for indigenous communities in Preah Vihear province, in northern Cambodia. The report reveals how Chinese companies, attracted by the Cambodian government to invest in local agro-industry, have been violating the fundamental rights of communities and destroying livelihoods and ecosystems over the past six years. The report is a joint collaboration between Community Network in Action (CNA), Ponlok Khmer, GRAIN, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

A new report exposes the devastating consequences of land grabs for indigenous communities in Preah Vihear province, in northern Cambodia. The report reveals how Chinese companies, attracted by the Cambodian government to invest in local agro-industry, have been violating the fundamental rights of communities and destroying livelihoods and ecosystems over the past six years. The report is a joint collaboration between Community Network in Action (CNA), Ponlok Khmer, GRAIN, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

"Food safety" as a weapon against small food vendors and producers

Concerns about food safety and hygiene have underpinned some governments’ decision to ban street vendors and close down fresh markets in recent years. Bangkok’s street vendors are the latest victims of this ban as the city government announced it will clean out all street vendors by the end of 2017.

Concerns about food safety and hygiene have underpinned some governments’ decision to ban street vendors and close down fresh markets in recent years. Bangkok’s street vendors are the latest victims of this ban as the city government announced it will clean out all street vendors by the end of 2017.

Large-scale investments and climate conservation initiatives destroy forests and people’s territories

Asia’s rapid economic growth and industrialisation are coming at an extremely high price for local communities, their environments and economies. Across the region, ‘development’ is characterized by large-scale investment, at the heart of which are the control and exploitation of land, forests, water, nature, minerals and labour. An article by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South in the latest issue of the World Rainforest Movement Bulletin.

Asia’s rapid economic growth and industrialisation are coming at an extremely high price for local communities, their environments and economies. Across the region, ‘development’ is characterized by large-scale investment, at the heart of which are the control and exploitation of land, forests, water, nature, minerals and labour. An article by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South in the latest issue of the World Rainforest Movement Bulletin.