Dissertation Abstracts

Power Relations in the South African Wheat to Bread Production Network

Author: Joynt, Katherine , kath.joynt@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Supervisor: Prof. Jacklyn Cock
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: power relations , production network , food sovereignty , class action
Areas of Research: Agriculture and Food , Economy and Society , Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change


This PhD research examines the shifting power relations between different actors in the South African wheat to bread production network, from seed to consumer. Heavy state regulation of the production, distribution and price of bread under the apartheid state resulted in concentration throughout the chain. Post-apartheid, under a free market, anti-competitive behaviour has continued and expanded. The most significant case was the 2007/8 bust of the bread cartel by the state competition authority. Four bread giants were found guilty of fixing the price of bread, a staple food for the poor. In response, consumer groups, social justice movements and a trade union federation launched a class action law suit, the first of its kind in South Africa, to claim damages for consumers. Using data from in-depth interviews with different actors, including trade unionists, farmers, grain traders, state officials, bakers and millers, this dissertation looks at new opportunities and spaces for struggle that are opening up in the current neoliberal era to challenge and reshape power relations in the wheat to bread production network.