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Abstract

This paper depicts how the general turn from mass consumption toward increased qualitative differentiation of products - the 'quality turn' - manifest in the South African agro-food system. The strong influence of these quality trends on agro-food systems evolution has been widely discussed in Europe and North America. We show that identifying quality related dynamics is bringing an interesting perspective into understanding some of the evolution of the local agro-food system. The discussion is mainly based on the perspective of the organic sector. Most domestic retailers' food quality positioning is in line with consumer trends, being general and price orientated. However, the retail sector has been entering and driving quality related niche markets, especially organics, fostering new organizational arrangements through certification schemes development. Price premiums and consumer behavior analysis associated with organic production reveal significant consumers' willingness to pay for immaterial product attributes (e.g. health) and reflect the current supply and demand imbalance in the organic sector. The leading role of the retail sector in conveying quality movements is instrumental in understanding the discussed evolution. Pointing out the growing interest in farmer's markets provides elements to foresee new development in the agro-food system and departure from the retail driven quality movement.

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