What is it about?

This article claims that labour relations vary across sections of the Colombian coffee value chain, which may be dependent on various conditions and Labour Control Regimes (LCRs). Job insecurity stems from several dynamics that are specific to the requirements of production sites or consumption areas, whereas LCRs include strategies for exploitation, discipline and mobilization of labour. On the one hand, global market trends have forced transnational companies (or TNCs), traders, and exporters in rural areas to establish relationships with the local growers, who hire workers and exert labour control. On the other hand, changing consumption patterns encouraged new urban coffee shops in urban workplaces to adopt different forms of labour control. In rural and urban areas, machismo tends to characterize labour markets, where women are typically located in specialized production roles or in non-valued reproductive roles. These LCRs have employed mixed practices on exploitation and discipline that render surplus value possible for farmers, traders, exporters, and TNCs. As such, the responses of workers differ according to the LCR and context.

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Why is it important?

Previous studies have examined the coffee value chain, whereas others have concentrated on work and labour issues. However, since the 2000s, the need has emerged for additional empirical studies on the transformation observed in this chain. Currently, attention to new coffee production regions, such as Tolima (Colombia), has been lacking. These regions have increased production to respond to the increasing demands for coffee. By doing so, they have displaced the importance of traditional coffee-growing regions such as Eje Cafetero. Moreover, studies on labour regimes that connect or compare rural and urban workplaces have been lacking. Thus, the current study intends to fill this research gap by analysing rural and urban workplaces and work relations in the coffee chain.


I hope this article will make people aware of the origins of the coffee they drink every day. Also on the working conditions that arise for women and men who work in different nodes of this chain. I really enjoyed doing this research. In field work I met people who work very hard, but who do not receive a fair income. The study of the coffee chain shed light on the social and economic inequalities across regions and between male and female workers as well.

Jairo Baquero-Melo
Universidad Del Rosario

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Labour control regimes in the rural and urban workplaces of global production networks: The coffee case of Colombia, Journal of Agrarian Change, June 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/joac.12499.
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