Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
The present study aims at describing the state-of-play of short food supply chains (SFSC) in the EU understood as being the chains in which foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer and for which the number of intermediaries between farmer and consumer should be minimal or ideally nil. Several types of SFSCs can be identified, for example CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture), on-farm sales, off-farm schemes (farmers markets, delivery schemes), collective sales in particular towards public institutions, being mostly local / proximity sales and in some cases distance sales. Such type of food chain has specific social impacts, economic impacts at regional and farm level as well as environmental impacts translating themselves into a clear interest of consumers. SFSCs are present throughout the EU, although there are some differences in the different MS in terms of dominating types of SFSCs. In general, they are dominantly small or micro-enterprises, composed of small-scale producers, often coupled to organic farming practices. Social values (quality products to consumers and direct contact with the producer) are the values usually highlighted by SFSCs before environmental or economic values. In terms of policy tools, there are pros and cons in developing a specific EU labelling scheme which could bring more recognition, clarity, protection and value added to SFSCs, while potential costs might be an obstacle. Anyhow, a possible labelling scheme should take into account the current different stages and situations of development of SFSCs in the EU and be flexible enough accommodate these differences. Other policy tools, in particular training and knowledge exchange in marketing and communication, are considered important and should continue to be funded by Rural Development programmes, as well as possibly other EU funds in view of the positive social and not specifically rural impacts.