International Best Practice Being Shared to Support Vibrant Food Chains
Teagasc (the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) recently hosted 20 EU experts in Galway for a 2-day meeting to examine short food supply chains. This network, known as the SKIN (Short Supply Chain Knowledge and Innovation Network) project, is looking to identify best practice in short food chains across Europe to develop economically resilient chains that provide environmental and social benefits to the regions in which they are located. Irish stakeholders from the dairy, horticulture, cereals, fresh meat and drinks sectors joined the SKIN consortium in highlighting how more direct linkages between consumers and primary producers can deliver economic and social benefits at farm level and contribute to more vibrant rural communities.
Teagasc is the Irish partner in sister projects SKIN and CERERE (Cereal Renaissance in Rural Europe) both funded by Horizon 2020. Totalling in value at €4 million, the projects will bring Irish farmers and innovation support professionals in direct contact with the best available knowledge on good practices for the establishment and operation of Short Food Supply Chains. The fundamental purpose of these projects is to generate practice-ready knowledge for producers to enter into arrangements that support their economic viability. Increasingly, primary producers are improving their bottom line not only by reducing costs but by adding value through strategies such as demonstrating commitment to environmental principles and highlighting special social and cultural significance.
Dr Áine Macken-Walsh, the Teagasc team leader, said: “The nature of the value chain and the contractual relationships within it are not only consequential for producers but are becoming an increasingly prominent societal issue. As societal scrutiny of production methods and product attributes has increased, the fairness and transparency of the value chain is also a growing issue in public consciousness.”
“As we have already learned from the SKIN project, arrangements such as farmer cooperatives, producer organisations and ‘values based’ chains that bring producers and consumers into more direct contact are being used as branding strategies to demonstrate authentic linages with the farming community, thus commanding a higher price,” the Teagasc researcher said.
Dr Maeve Henchion, Head of the Department of Agri-food Business and Spatial Analysis, Teagasc said: “Learning from best practice in terms of what works on the ground in other countries very much complements knowledge generated from research to support a competitive agri-food sector. Teagasc is playing a key role in SKIN by creating guidelines and procedures to identify good practice in a systematic and rigorous way. We look forward to collecting examples of best practice in Ireland to share with the consortium.”
Pictured at the Horizon 2020 SKIN meeting hosted by Teagasc in Galway are project coordinators from the University of Foggia and the Teagasc team: Gianluigi de Pascale; Sara Djelveh; Dr Áine Macken Walsh; Dr Fedele Colontuono; Dr Maeve Henchion and Brídín McIntyre.