Does contract farming improve welfare? A review

Marc F. Bellemare, Jeffrey R. Bloem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Although many urban areas around the world have grown steadily in recent years, the structural transformation, wherein an economy goes from relying primarily on agriculture and natural resources to relying primarily on manufacturing, has eluded many developing countries. In those countries, contract farming, whereby processors contract out the production of some agricultural commodity to growers, is often seen as a means of spurring the development of an agribusiness sector, and thus launch the structural transformation. As a result, economists and other social scientists have extensively researched contract farming over the last 30 years. We review the findings of the economics literature on contract farming and discuss its implications for development policy and research. In so doing, we highlight the methodological weaknesses that limit much of the literature on contract farming in answering questions of relevance for policy. Despite valiant research effort, many of the core features of contract farming imply substantial challenges for researchers aiming to study the question “Does contract farming improve welfare?” We conclude with a discussion of where we see the literature on contract farming evolving over the next few decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-271
Number of pages13
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Bellemare would like to thank the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for funding this work through grant Min-14–061—“Smallholder Participation in Agricultural Value Chains: Evidence from Madagascar.” The both of us are grateful to Arun Agrawal as well as two anonymous reviewers for comments which have led to a much improved manuscript. All remaining errors are ours.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Africa
  • Agribusiness
  • Agricultural value chains
  • Asia
  • Contract farming
  • Latin America
  • Outgrower schemes


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