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Bastard spice or champagne of cinnamon? Conflicting value creations along cinnamon commodity chains in Northern Vietnam


Derks, Annuska; Turner, Sarah; Thúy Hạnh, Ngô (2020). Bastard spice or champagne of cinnamon? Conflicting value creations along cinnamon commodity chains in Northern Vietnam. Development and Change, 51(3):895-920.

Abstract

In upland northern Vietnam ethnic minority farmers are cultivating what some global retailers refer to as the ‘champagne of cinnamon’. However, a closer examination reveals that this spice is not ‘true cinnamon’ but cassia, with the exact species remaining uncertain. Drawing on commodity chain literature and debates over the creation of value and quality, the aims of this article are twofold. First, it investigates the making of ‘Vietnamese cinnamon’ as it moves from the hills of northern Vietnam to supermarket shelves in the global North, and the actors and livelihoods involved. Second, it explores how different actors define ‘Vietnamese cinnamon’ and infuse it with often‐contradictory values. Based on multi‐sited ethnographic fieldwork over a four‐year period, the study finds that the state and cooperating non‐government organizations tend to ignore ongoing taxonomic confusion while creating a geographical indicator to highlight the uniqueness of this commodity. Yet, concurrently, exporters and retailers in the global North focus on other distinctions as key marketing tools including remoteness, ethnicity, taste and health benefits. The article thus calls for an expanded analytical focus on competing value creation for agro‐food products and on the impacts for commodity producers, in this case ethnic minority farmers in the global South.

Abstract

In upland northern Vietnam ethnic minority farmers are cultivating what some global retailers refer to as the ‘champagne of cinnamon’. However, a closer examination reveals that this spice is not ‘true cinnamon’ but cassia, with the exact species remaining uncertain. Drawing on commodity chain literature and debates over the creation of value and quality, the aims of this article are twofold. First, it investigates the making of ‘Vietnamese cinnamon’ as it moves from the hills of northern Vietnam to supermarket shelves in the global North, and the actors and livelihoods involved. Second, it explores how different actors define ‘Vietnamese cinnamon’ and infuse it with often‐contradictory values. Based on multi‐sited ethnographic fieldwork over a four‐year period, the study finds that the state and cooperating non‐government organizations tend to ignore ongoing taxonomic confusion while creating a geographical indicator to highlight the uniqueness of this commodity. Yet, concurrently, exporters and retailers in the global North focus on other distinctions as key marketing tools including remoteness, ethnicity, taste and health benefits. The article thus calls for an expanded analytical focus on competing value creation for agro‐food products and on the impacts for commodity producers, in this case ethnic minority farmers in the global South.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Development
Uncontrolled Keywords:development, commodity chains, value creation, spice, ethnic minorites, Vietnam
Language:English
Date:1 May 2020
Deposited On:07 Jan 2021 10:04
Last Modified:24 Apr 2024 01:49
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0012-155X
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12582
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID10001A_162454
  • : Project TitleSpice Chains: Vietnamese Star Anise, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)