This was the cry coming from the attendees at the 'Local Agriculture & Short Supply Chains' conference held by the EU Agriculture Commission in Brussels, as part of the lead up to the discussions of the CAP Reform. Finally figuring out a way to bring these two suitors together will crack the nut of facilitating farmers to sell direct to the consumer.
I was delighted to get the opportunity to attend the conference on behalf of Macra na Feirme. This conference had significant relevance for all Irish farmers. Irish farmers already selling direct to the consumer, the many Irish farmers that have the potential to complement their existing income by doing so & also Irish farmers who's route to market is not direct to the consumer. The conference highlighted a clear wish from EU Institutions to encourage, foster & support farmers in direct selling - through existing structures & potential new structures.
The main points coming from the conference are:
- The provision of structures to give farmers the opportunity to sell more produce locally.
- The benefits this can have for local regions.
- Consumers want better quality local produce.
- The need to legitimise & expand this sector of agriculture production & sales.
- How this system of selling agricultural produce can eliminate waste & provide more efficient ways of getting produce to consumers.
- Demand exists from consumers - supply exists from farmers, but getting the product to the consumer is where it all falls short.
Benefits for all Irish Farmers;
- Farmers selling locally within short supply chains (via farmers markets, farm shops, box schemes, direct to independent retailers, restaurants etc) can hugely benefit Ireland's food marketing strategy 'The Good Food Island', thus driving our already strong food export sector forward.
- How? When a visitor to Ireland has a positive cultural experience with Irish food, if they are presented with Irish food in their weekly shop at home, this positive experience will lead to them choosing the Irish product.
- The same applies for Irish consumers shopping in their local supermarket.
- The reputation of French & Italian food does not come from the fact that it is freely available to the Irish shopper, it comes from the solid local food culture that exists in those countries.
- Driving a local food culture in Ireland will have direct positive effects on all Irish food production & add another sustainable tier to our rural economy.
- Strong local food cultures in each EU member country & the knock on positive effects of these cultures, will promote food sales between EU member countries, with the same applying for EU food exports.
Let us see what actions come from the conference & hope that these actions will help us achieve the above.
I will keep you updated on developments.