Pesticide Regulatory Heterogeneity, Foreign Sourcing, and Global Agricultural Value Chains (with Bernhard Dalheimer and Gabriele Mack)
Regulations on the production and consumption of goods are very heterogeneous across countries. Whereas the effects of regulations on exports are well known, the responses of importers to heterogeneous and frequently changing country-specific regulations are not well understood. We combine Swiss firm-level import customs transaction data with country-product-year-specific maximum residue limits to investigate the effect of pesticide regulatory heterogeneity on firm-level imports and assess the moderating role of firm size and global value chain participation. Relying on a global sourcing model, we find that regulatory heterogeneity reduces imports but less so in larger, and diversified firms. Participating in global value chains also improves firms’ flexibility toward heterogeneous regulation. Business diversification—while reducing the gains from trade and scale—could help firms cope with heterogeneous international regulations.
Pesticide regulatory differences across countries

Figure 1: Pesticide regulatory differences across countries

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Food Production Shocks and Agricultural Supply Elasticities in Sub-Saharan Africa (with Bernhard Dalheimer)
This paper estimates the food supply elasticity in SSA. Building up on commodity storage theory, we empirically estimate food supply functions for SSA. Our identifications strategy relies on exogenous weather shocks as instruments. This approach further allows to quantify the exposure of SSA food markets to weather events. We use data from FAO, USDA, WFP and public climate data to model 3 commodities in 173 food markets in 34 countries in SSA. Results suggest that (i) food supply in SSA is more elastic than global food supply, and (ii) prices are much more subject to exogenous weather events than global prices are. Moreover, we find substantial heterogeneity of food market responses to weather shocks and price developments by crops. These results are in line with commodity storage theory as in absence of opportunities to build inventories, producers will not shift supplies across time periods. Promoting storage activity — also through imports — and investing in storage facility can smoothen consumption, stabilize markets and reduce long term production uncertainty in the region.

Figure 1: Incidence of food insecurity in Africa

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Wheat market shocks to the export price of pasta are Not all alike (with Daniele Curzi and Daniele Valenti)
The unfolding Russia-Ukraine war has fed food prices that were already high in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Food Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) peaked at about 160% in March 2022. The wheat production sector was severely hit given the importance of both Russia and Ukraine in global wheat output. This led to a drastic increase in global wheat prices, which in May 2022 exceeded 500 US$/mt. Different factors contributed to this price increase inter alia rising global demand for wheat, poor grain and oil-seed harvests in crucial production regions due to adverse weather conditions or disease outbreaks (e.g., the swine flu outbreak in China), tight stock levels, and a considerable increase in the cost of energy which drove prices of agricultural inputs (e.g., fertilizer and pesticides) to unprecedented heights. Shocks of this nature to global wheat prices are not new. Which begs the question, how resilient are firms that depend on wheat as a major intermediate input in their production process to such threats? For instance, in response to a shock firms could lower their output, cut wages or reduce labour. We ask how the pricing behaviour of food-producing firms responds to the fluctuations in global grain markets. In this paper, we shed some new light on this issue by analysing how shocks to the determinants of global wheat prices affect the export prices of firms producing pasta and pasta derivatives. Unravelling such a complex relationship is relevant to further comprehending how firms set prices in reaction to changes in commodity prices.

Figure 1: Impulse response of endogenous variables to structural shocks

Pesticide regulatory homogeneity and firms’ import decision (with Anirudh Shingal)
Country-specific variations in food standards often reflect national regulatory traditions, but they also disrupt trade by increasing associated costs and limiting market access. Harmonising such standards should reduce or eliminate the additional market access costs and enhance trade. Yet, whereas evidence abounds on the trade effects of country-specific public mandatory food standards, we know little about the trade effects of harmonising such standards across countries. Exploiting the EU–Swiss trade relationship and data on maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides, we assess the channels that explain the effects of harmonised standards on agri-food imports. Estimating a reduced-form gravity model, we find that similarity in Swiss-EU MRL on a product-pesticide pair increases Swiss product-level imports from the EU by 10%. This consists of a 7.7% increase in the average import value per product per firm, a 1.4% increase in the number of product varieties imported, and a 0.6% increase in the number of importing firms. Harmonisation also increases import volumes by 9.4% and decreases import prices by 1.6%. Accounting for firm heterogeneity, we find more pronounced trade effects of harmonisation for smaller firms. We also confirm our findings using estimations at the firm-product level.

Figure 1: The effect of pesticide regulatory homogeneity on import margins by firm size

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Trade barriers or catalysts? Non-tariff measures and firm-level trade margins (with Abraham Lartey and Woubet Kassa)
We empirically examine how standards and technical regulations affect export margins in selected African countries at the firm level. Our approach involves combining detailed customs transaction data at the firm-product level with bilateral information on non-tariff measures within a gravity model of trade framework. We find no impact of standards and technical regulations on the extensive margin of firm-level trade. However, we find that they do diminish trade at the intensive margin in both agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Small firms are more affected at the intensive margin compared to medium and large firms, and similarly, consumable goods are more affected compared to intermediate goods. Moreover, in the manufacturing sector, firms with initially higher product quality experience a reversal of the trade-reducing effect, whereas in the agricultural sector, this effect is less pronounced for their counterparts. Our results also suggest that African exporting firms face equivalent impacts in both regional and global markets.

Figure 1: The proliferation of NTMs over time and development level of destinations