25.04.2017 |

Short food chains and local markets benefit both farmers and consumers

Vegetables at a market (Photo: CC0)

Short food chains and local markets, where farmers and producers sell directly to the consumer, can improve farmers’ income and product quality, according to an article published by Euractiv. The article, which is part of a special report dedicated to the topic of “Farmers under pressure”, draws on a recently released study of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS). The study found that short food supply chains and local markets have flourished recently in all EU countries, both in rural and urban areas. On average, 15% of EU farms sell more than half of their production directly to consumers, the researchers said. “Organic producers have been the pioneers of the short supply chain from the development of producers markets and shops to community supported agriculture,” Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Deputy Director and Policy Manager, told Euroactiv. “Short supply chains help in reconnecting producers and consumers and therefore achieving a fair price for those employed in the agricultural sector.” This has been confirmed by the EPRS study: “On the producers’ side, selling agricultural products directly to consumers enables them to retain a greater share of the products’ market value, through the elimination of intermediaries, which can potentially increase their income,” writes author Marie-Laure Augère-Granier.

Across the EU, a growing number of consumers buy food products on local farmers’ markets, directly at the farm, through basket/box delivery systems or other community-supported agriculture schemes. The EPRS study points out that European customers tend to associate local products with higher quality standards (freshness, nutritional value), healthy eating, more environment-friendly production methods and a lower carbon footprint. It quotes from a 2011 Eurobarometer survey which shows that nine out of ten citizens agree that there are benefits to buying products from a local farm. According to another Eurobarometer survey from 2016, four out of five European citizens think that “strengthening the farmer’s role in the food chain” is either fairly or very important. “The mutual benefits brought about by local food systems and short food supply chains explain why the latter have been gaining ground in recent times in all EU Member States,” the study reads. “They constitute an alternative to conventional longer food supply chains, with large retailers such as supermarkets, where consumers purchase anonymous food products without any indication of the price actually paid to the producer. They are a way to reconnect producers and consumers and to re-localise agricultural production.”

Geneviève Savigny, policy advisor at the European coordination committee of Via Campesina, told Euroactiv that short food chains are nothing new, although they are now quite fashionable. The French farmer considers them a win-win game “as consumers find good and fresh products with good value for money, and producers get a much better price than in wholesale.” However, she also adds that, in the light of the growing concentration of the agri-food industry, farmers who are producing for the local market need support. She argues that a fair EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is required to ensure decent prices and income to farmers. “For producers in direct sales, CAP is needed to enable investments in equipment for processing on the farm or collectively. Direct payment geared towards ‘active persons’ and not only hectare would be a legitimate support,” she told Euroactiv. (ab)

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