The rise of supermarkets, together with large-scale food manufacturers, has deeply transformed agri-food markets in many countries. This expansion has been evident in South Africa as well. Increasing attention has been and is being paid to the growth of supermarkets in countries outside of North America and Europe. Numerous studies have been carried out in developing countries, including South Africa. However, these studies, while identifying the growth of supermarkets and the changes in supply chains, notably downstream, that have been caused by this growth, have made relatively little progress in documenting the impacts at producer level and in identifying issues that need to be addressed. There is a special need for studies on how farmers and supporting agencies, especially public agencies should respond to adapt their interventions to the new realities of supplying large retailers. This is of importance for South Africa because of its unique policy environment where the expansion of supermarkets is accelerating at the time when transformation in the agricultural sector is the key with the aim of integrating emerging farmers in the mainstream agri-food system. This paper will follow a case study approach, looking at cases in the fresh fruit and vegetables category, particularly in the Western Cape Province. The paper will summarise the rapid rise of supermarkets in agri-food systems in developing countries. Attention will then be drawn towards characterising these trends in the South African context with a special emphasis on farmer’s response and issues that need to be addressed.


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