Labelling to promote broad-based Black economic empowerment in South Africa : a case study of the Thandi empowerment label.
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Broad-based black economic empowerment (BBEE) is a policy objective in South Africa. Farmworker equity-share schemes (FWES) satisfy several of the empowerment goals specified by the proposed AgriBEE Scorecard. Information about the costs and benefits of subscribing to an empowerment label will help managers to make more informed decisions about empowerment and could therefore promote BBEE. The Thandi label is an initiative to market fruit and wines originating from FWES and farms operated by previously disadvantaged farmers. A case study of the Thandi label was undertaken to determine whether or not the accredited empowerment attribute adds value to Thandi products. An exploratory-explanatory case study was adopted basing questions largely on the theoretical propositions of asymmetric information, the benefits of product labelling and the preconditions for a successful label. Primary data were collected via in-depth interviews with managers of Capespan, The Company of Wine People and empowerment farms participating in the Thandi label. The study made use of in-depth interviews with key informants to investigate issues considered (on theoretical grounds) to be critical in establishing a successful label. Responses were subsequently tabulated and compared, where relevant, across respondents in order to check for consensus views. Results indicate that the Thandi label had not succeeded in differentiating fruit, whereas the Thandi wine label had increased sales revenue and was covering accreditation costs incurred by farms as well as the recurring costs of maintaining and marketing the label. Thandi fruit had not grown its share of the domestic or export markets and did not command a price premium, Capespan subsequently discontinued the Thandi fruit label. Thandi wine, on the other hand, had grown its export market and consumers were prepared to pay a premium for Thandi wine products. The data indicate that empowerment attributes were useful in finding shelf space for products, but that quality is essential to grow market share and to earn price premiums. In short, accredited empowerment attributes can add value to quality products sold to discerning consumers who lack information about empowerment and quality attributes at the point of sale. Empowerment labels must include quality attributes. Government should at least absorb some of the transaction costs confronting producers and marketing agencies in negotiating standards for farms and firms participating in generic empowerment labels. It could also offer auditing services to local accreditation agencies to improve their credibility. Further research estimating consumers' willingness-to-pay for products branded with empowerment labels is necessary to estimate the size of premiums that different products may command.
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