Publication: Supplying Lead Firms, Intangible Assets and Power in Global Value Chains – Explaining Governance in the Fertilizer Chain

By Peter Dannenberg and Gideon Tups (CRC-TRR Project C01 Future in Chains / University of Cologne).


Global suppliers of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals exert increasing degrees of power in global value chains (GVCs). Although the GVC literature has explained how global buyers govern GVCs from the buying-end, the question of how global suppliers achieve governance from the supplying-end remains underexplored. We address this gap by combining a multidimensional typology of power with literature on intangible assets. We argue that intangible assets are crucial resources for global suppliers to morph otherwise ungovernable supply chains for undifferentiated input commodities into more sophisticated and governable GVCs. We illustrate our argument with the case of the global fertilizer supplier, YARA International. YARA’s intangible asset investments were instrumental in governing the value chain integration of Tanzanian smallholder farmers. They allowed YARA to exert more than bargaining power (demonstrative, institutional and constitutive power) and to effectively position itself as supplying lead firm in Tanzania’s agro-industrial GVC.

Dannenberg, P., Tups, G. 2023. Supplying lead firms, intangible assets and power in global value chains: Explaining governance in the fertilizer chain. Global Networks. A Journal of Transnational Affairs. Full Text

For more information on project C01 Future in Chains click here.

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