Food’s important role in EU rural development is highlighted by the European Commission in its policy emphasis on promotion of farm products. Proposals to update this policy were put forward in 2011, which draw attention to the fact that the, “EU has a culinary heritage of great diversity that should be exploited to the full.”
Partnership approaches for strengthening local food markets have been shown to be effective as rural development tools. Outcomes from such local food projects can help to underpin core elements of the rural economy in sustainable ways. For example, by working together, businesses participating in local food projects can find new ways of selling more of their products and attracting new types of customers. Stronger connections can be established between local agricultural, tourism and food supply sectors.
In addition, consumption of local food products in rural areas leads to reduced food transport. This can create economic, environmental and social benefits such as transport cost savings, fewer emissions, less wear and tear on rural roads, reduced traffic congestion and associated improved road safety.
A variety of development benefits can also be gained for rural businesses from ‘short-supply chains’. For instance, reducing the number of businesses involved in a supply chain between the producer of a raw material and the final customer can increase the share of the final price received by those involved. Fewer links can also provide cost savings for customers and makes it easier for everyone to know where the raw materials come from. Direct sales (from original producer to final customer) are the shortest supply chains.
Financial measures in the EAFRD’s support toolkit contain options for facilitating short-supply chains. These are relevant for the agri-food sector and can also apply to other rural businesses.
Further information sources: ENRD