Local farming and direct sales
On 6 December 2013 the European Commission presented a report exploring the case for a local farming and direct sales labelling scheme.
The report points out the main features of local farming, short food supply chains and direct sales in the EU, and explores the possibilities of adopting a labelling scheme for these local food systems.
A working document accompanying the report examines the challenges faced by small-scale producers and short food supply chains in more detail. It also presents existing policy tools at EU level.
>> Read the Commission report [97 KB]
>> Read the annex to the report [47 KB]
>> Read the working document [199 KB]
In a nutshell
The report and the working document underline that numerous challenges exist for the development of short food supply chains.
A number of tools at EU level support local farming and short food supply chains, mainly in the framework of the rural development policy. However, their application varies considerably across the regions and the Member States.
The Commission calls on the Parliament and the Council, Member States and regions to reflect whether existing policy tools and measures are appropriate.
The Commission also invites for a reflection whether certain EU rules, such as those on hygiene or public procurement provide adequate flexibility for the development of this type of farming and sales.
Demand for quality, fresh and local food is increasing across the EU. This demand is often combined with environmental, climate and social expectations regarding the food chain.
Although the environmental benefits of short food supply chains are difficult to assess, food chains which are at the same time local, seasonal and use ecologically-sound production methods are likely to have a positive impact on reduction of carbon emissions and food waste.
According to the Report, a voluntary labelling scheme could be a helpful additional tool for protecting locally produced food from imitations and for informing consumers about them.
In order to unlock the full potential of short food supply chains, a labelling scheme would have to be easy to handle for producers and voluntary while at the same time ensure sufficient credibility for consumers.
Furthermore, such a scheme should take into account differences in the development of short food supply chains across the Member States.
Because of the specific features of direct sales which already involve a close relation between producers and consumers, the report suggests that restricting a labelling scheme to this particular supply chain would only have limited impact.
Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs asks the Commission to present no later than 4 January 2014 "a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the case for a new local farming and direct sales labelling scheme to assist producers in marketing their produce locally".
Since 2011, the Commission has undertaken broad consultations and enquiries with Member States, the Advisory Group on Quality of Agricultural Production and other stakeholders.
In April 2012 a high level conference "Local Agriculture and Short Food Supply Chains" was organised.
In March 2013 the study "Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics" was published.