Development organizations are increasingly adopting market-based approaches to reducing rural poverty and food insecurity in the global South. The value chain approach is particularly popular. Aid donors, governments and non-governmental organizations are applying value chain concepts originally designed for promoting industrial production to smallholder agricultural production. Cashew development in Côte d'Ivoire illustrates this new approach to rural development in which ‘upgrading’ the production and processing links are top priorities. A core assumption informing this approach is that improvements in product quality at the producer level will yield higher producer prices and incomes. This article examines this assumed quality–price relationship through a comparative analysis of cashew quality and prices in Côte d'Ivoire. The research reveals a disconnect between nut quality and producer prices. The case study demonstrates that power relations are more important than quality in setting producer prices for raw cashew nuts.
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