November 8, 2018
In many European countries the food market is highly concentrated and dominated by a small number of supermarket companies. Often, products have made long journeys before being sold and have not been produced nearby. Is this system healthy for consumers? Is it economic for producers? And how do these production patterns affect the environment?
Lately, a trend towards short supply chains has been observed in the EU. Less intermediaries increase the economic value for the local community and the producer. Local markets offer greater autonomy to farmers, reduce emissions and are environmentally-friendlier.
Food sovereignty deals with the ethical and environmental impact of food. The quality is an important aspect of the concept. Therefore, non-industrial, locally produced food plays a key role. Food sovereignty is also based on values, such as respectful interactions among the involved partners.
The reconnection of producers and consumers and the relocalization of agricultural food and production is the main objective of Short Food Supply Chains. Local communities and farmers can keep a larger share of revenues when distances are shorter and there are less intermediaries. Furthermore, short ways help to improve interactions between the involved players.
Local production in Europe in order to ensure food supply and livelihoods for farmers was the main objective of the Common Agricultural Policy when it was launched. Via Campesina argues that this orientation has changed towards a more geopolitical and globalized approach. The latest reforms were supposed to modernize the food industry but mainly led to a stronger market concentration, like mentioned above. During the last ten years, about one third of European farms have disappeared. Via Campesina states that Europe, traditionally proud of its food, has failed to meet the citizens’ needs. They claim a shift from competition- to value-orientated policies.
Food sovereignty is not contrary to international trade, but also pursues non-economic objectives. The concept prioritizes local production and requires possibilities to protect from low price imports. Despite the already existing subsidies, farmers in the EU often cannot run their farms without financial aid anymore.
However, an extension of subsidies in general cannot solve the problem. According to Via Campesina, rather the distribution needs to be adjusted. If larger industrial producers are supported, dumping is more likely to arise. A high market concentration leads to low prices, the enemy of local farmers. Instead, financial aid for rural, small-scale and family-run farms are more effective. They foster sustainable local development and Short Food Supply Chains.
Measures to support local and small-scale farming are very relevant for policy-makers. Research has shown that small farms are more resilient to climate change. While large, industrial producers grow plants with the objective to maximize profits, local producers usually apply more ecological approaches. Due to these methods, their plants are less vulnerable, and the production is more sustainable.
Fostering the development of sustainable and local food systems is the objective of the Erasmus plus project “Training for Sustainable Food System Development (T4F)”, promoted by DIESIS Coop (T4F- Project).
T4F aims to respond to this issue through a training addressed to professional of the food sector and its new generation of workers, in order to develop their “green skills” and drive the green growth.
Author : Diesis