An assessment of emerging networks in the fruit sector: The case of Inca berry in Ecuador
The diversification of agri-food products through emerging chains has a fundamental social and economic role in Ecuador. A substantial amount of research focused only on examining critical factors in terms of agronomic and environmental performance. However, there is a shift in the agri-food chain perspective and study towards more sustainable models of production, logistics trade, and consumption. Aspects such as the socio-economic sustainability, level of collaboration between actors, an adequate chain configuration, and the employment of smart governance mechanisms show the weaknesses where stakeholders can propose enhancements. In this respect, socio-economic and productive factors are consequential and still affecting the progress of these chains. Also, the current growth of market opportunities at the local and international level is a driver to support them by setting sustainable strategies. This study aimed to analyze socio-economic and production aspects to understand the dynamic across the emerging Inca berry (Physalis peruviana) chain located in Ecuador and bring forward potential strategies. Thus, chain vertical and horizontal imensioning was introduced to contribute with relevant insights. The framework applied accounts with a revision of primary and support activities, and flows of high and low relevance. The investigation clustered pre-production, production, and post-production tiers. Also, it executed the food chain mapping, the identification of chain actors, and application of surveys at the supply chain levels to identify strengths and weaknesses based on specific socio-economic and productive variables. Results stated several viable long-term strategies. Examples of those strategies are the diversification of marketing channels, the intervention of academic institutions to improve efficiency, productivity, and the associations' empowerment. All of them aimed at circular economic models. The main research contribution is the application of the chain configuration to assess the chain performance comprehensively. Based on the results, our recommendation is incorporating new indicators to analyze the environmental and institutional components profoundly.
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