The supermarket revolution has arrived in China and is spreading as fast as or faster than anywhere in the world. As the demand for vegetables, fruit, nuts and other high valued products has risen, urban retailers are handling increasingly more of these high value commodities. The experience of many developing countries suggests that there could be serious distributional impacts of the emergence of supermarkets. And, in China, as elsewhere in the world, there is concern among policy makers and academics that poor, small farmers might be excluded from the market for horticulture commodities.
The main goal of our paper is to understand what types of farmers have been able to participate in the horticultural revolution, how they interact with markets and how supply chains affect their production decisions and incomes. We also want to understand if (and if so, then how) the rise of supermarkets have changed supply chains. Our analysis uses spatially sampled data from 200 communities and 500 households in the Greater Beijing area and supplemented by data collected in Shandong Province, China's fruit and vegetable basket. In contrast to fears of some researchers, we find small and poor farmers have actively participate in the emergence of China's horticulture economy. Moreover, there has been almost no penetration of modern wholesalers or retailers into rural communities. We also conducted surveys and interviews in wholesale markets and with procurement agents in Beijing supermarket chains and document the fact that supply chain shifts have only affected the downstream segments of food markets and China's wholesale markets (midstream in the food supply chain) are only being affected marginally.