Supermarket Watch Asia

Supermarket watch Asia is a quarterly email bulletin for social movements about developments in food retail and distribution in Asia produced by GRAIN. Follow this link to subscribe.

International Street Vendors’ Day and the need for collective struggle

It’s the 20th edition of our quarterly Supermarket Asia bulletin. It’s good timing as we celebrate International Street Vendor’s Day on 14th of November - a day calling for the recognition of the contribution street vendors make to our food systems and our lives, and to raise awareness about the significant challenges they face.

It’s the 20th edition of our quarterly Supermarket Asia bulletin. It’s good timing as we celebrate International Street Vendor’s Day on 14th of November - a day calling for the recognition of the contribution street vendors make to our food systems and our lives, and to raise awareness about the significant challenges they face.

Between free trade and local markets: Thailand's attempt to enter CPTPP negotiations meets opposition again

In this time of Covid-19, free trade negotiations have not subsided, and are even increasing. In Thailand the government is trying again to join the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, CPTPP. But opposition continues, with increasing demand for fresh, small-scale farm produce and a diversified food system based on local markets. This edition of the Supermarket watch bulletin also includes articles that highlight long term economic impacts and opportunities that Covid-19 creates for street vendors.

In this time of Covid-19, free trade negotiations have not subsided, and are even increasing. In Thailand the government is trying again to join the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, CPTPP. But opposition continues, with increasing demand for fresh, small-scale farm produce and a diversified food system based on local markets. This edition of the Supermarket watch bulletin also includes articles that highlight long term economic impacts and opportunities that Covid-19 creates for street vendors.

Food retail in times of Covid-19

The first wave of lockdown measures that governments applied triggered panic buying of food, as people, fearing possible shortages, filled up their kitchens and pantries with food supplies to last several weeks. As the restrictions on movement became tighter and as the lockdowns continued, people began to turn more and more to e-retailers for their food purchases.

The first wave of lockdown measures that governments applied triggered panic buying of food, as people, fearing possible shortages, filled up their kitchens and pantries with food supplies to last several weeks. As the restrictions on movement became tighter and as the lockdowns continued, people began to turn more and more to e-retailers for their food purchases.

Fresh markets are not to blame for the new corona virus outbreak

The outbreak of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, has been in the headlines of media outlets across the world since it was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. There is growing evidence that the Wuhan market may not have been the source of the initial outbreak in humans. A paper published in The Lancet by a large group of Chinese researchers examined the first 41 hospitalised patients with confirmed infections from the coronavirus and found that the earliest case "became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market," In total, 13 of the 41 initial cases they examined had no link to the marketplace.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, has been in the headlines of media outlets across the world since it was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. There is growing evidence that the Wuhan market may not have been the source of the initial outbreak in humans. A paper published in The Lancet by a large group of Chinese researchers examined the first 41 hospitalised patients with confirmed infections from the coronavirus and found that the earliest case "became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market," In total, 13 of the 41 initial cases they examined had no link to the marketplace.

Where’s the place for small farmers and traders in the digital marketing world?

In this edition of Supermarket watch Asia, articles from IT for Change reflect on how the existing dominant digital platform will not work for women in the global South whose sources of livelihood are wholly dependent on the informal economy. This is the case in many Asian countries, where women are very much present and actively engaged in traditional food markets. Lastly, the bulletin includes an interview with GRAIN and INRA exploring whether the steamroller effect of supermarkets has the same impacts in the global North and South; and how this model is attempting to reinvent itself in different parts of the world.

In this edition of Supermarket watch Asia, articles from IT for Change reflect on how the existing dominant digital platform will not work for women in the global South whose sources of livelihood are wholly dependent on the informal economy. This is the case in many Asian countries, where women are very much present and actively engaged in traditional food markets. Lastly, the bulletin includes an interview with GRAIN and INRA exploring whether the steamroller effect of supermarkets has the same impacts in the global North and South; and how this model is attempting to reinvent itself in different parts of the world.

Supermarkets and convenience stores: the unflinching plastic polluters

In the past few years, the growing problem of plastic pollution has reached a tipping point in public awareness. China and the United States stand as the top plastic waste generators in the world. But poor waste management has put Asia in the spotlight of the global fight against plastic pollution. Inadequate waste disposal in open and uncontrolled landfills has led China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to dump more plastic into the oceans than the rest of the world combined.

In the past few years, the growing problem of plastic pollution has reached a tipping point in public awareness. China and the United States stand as the top plastic waste generators in the world. But poor waste management has put Asia in the spotlight of the global fight against plastic pollution. Inadequate waste disposal in open and uncontrolled landfills has led China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to dump more plastic into the oceans than the rest of the world combined.

Supermarkets out! Food systems are doing just fine without them

In this edition of the Supermarkets Watch Asia Bulletin, we look at the expansion of multinational food companies and retailers from a widened point-of-view. These companies are adopting new strategies to expand their presence in Asia and across the globe. The editorial of this number of the Bulletin focuses on the aggressive actions of multinational supermarket chains in Africa. Their impact on local food systems has given birth to a new struggle across the African continent, led by small farmers, small vendors and consumers.

In this edition of the Supermarkets Watch Asia Bulletin, we look at the expansion of multinational food companies and retailers from a widened point-of-view. These companies are adopting new strategies to expand their presence in Asia and across the globe. The editorial of this number of the Bulletin focuses on the aggressive actions of multinational supermarket chains in Africa. Their impact on local food systems has given birth to a new struggle across the African continent, led by small farmers, small vendors and consumers.

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.

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.

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. 

"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.