The expansion of export production for global supermarkets has generated new employment channels for internal rural-rural migrant workers in Africa. Yet analysis of migrant labour in the global economy tends to focus on rural-urban migration or the movement of workers across international borders. Internal migrant labourers work at the interface of the advancing commercialisation of global agriculture and of more traditional forms of rural livelihood generation. Agro-export production involves inherent risks, particularly from commercial shocks as consumer trends change. How the benefits and risks affect migrant workers is little understood. To what extent do migrant workers gain from incorporation into agro-exports? What are the avenues for protection of migrant workers in a rapidly changing global economy? How can strategies be enhanced to reduce the impact of negative shocks on migrant labour?
This paper examines these questions based on a study of the pineapple export sector in Ghana. This is a new and growing export crop, contributing to the role of agro-exports in reducing poverty within Ghana. Ghana's pineapple export sector has grown rapidly between 1986 and 2002, with production increasing from 2,600 to 42,000 metric tons. Production for export is based mainly in the Eastern Region, in locations north of Accra. The main export destinations are in Europe (particularly Germany and the UK), where supermarket retailing is becoming the dominant retail outlet. Supermarkets have increasingly required compliance with standards relating to agricultural practice (eg. Eurep-gap) and social compliance. More recently there has been a move by some producer and exporter groups to become Fairtrade and Organic accredited.
Pineapple production is labour intensive, and case studies indicate that approximately one third of workers are migrants from other regions within Ghana, particularly the Volta and Central Regions. The aim of the project was to assess the comparative risks and vulnerabilities faced by internal migrant workers in pineapple exports, what channels for social protection are open to them, and how they can be made more effective for migrant workers. The risks these workers face were highlighted in 2002-4 when a sudden switch by global supermarkets took place from the traditional pineapple variety grown in Ghana to a new variety (MD2). Much of the production of Sweet Cayenne went unsold and exporters failed to meet payment obligations. Small-scale producers were least able to cope or make the switch. Many migrant workers were made unemployed or went unpaid. Children were withdrawn from school as the crisis hit household incomes. This highlights the importance of protection for migrant workers in a sector subject to commercial shocks.
WP-T30, Sussex, UK, DRC on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, 51 pp.