Lack of information and multiple intermediaries have been seen as major obstacles preventing farmers from obtaining a higher price for their produce. Thus, providing information on market prices to farmers and removing intermediaries from the supply chain, have often been considered means to empower farmers. This article argues that intermediaries are integral to any market exchange and notions of disintermediation mask processes that are replacing one form of intermediation by another, usually a corporatized or more vertically integrated one.
This article argues that the potential for empowerment has to be understood more broadly than the provision of market price information or disintermediation alone.
Further, in commodities like soyabean, where India's position in the global supply chain has put both farmers and intermediaries in the position of price receivers, the latter are unable to influence the global price of soybean or manipulate its local price in any way. In this context, providing price information has negligible impact on the final price obtained by farmers.
This article argues that the potential for empowerment has to be understood more broadly than the provision of market price information or disintermediation alone. Mapping out the ways in which power is exercised by various actors in the marketplace through activities such as the determination of the quality of a farmer's crop, for example, provide other spaces to understand the possibilities of empowerment. By examining how norms regarding quality in soybean are created and enforced, and how they are influenced by broader logics that go beyond the soybean marketplace itself, this article explores such possibilities and their implications for farmers in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh in India.