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Marketing local products:
Short and long distribution channels

[ Summary ]

Section II
Collectively marketing local
products via long distribution channels


Chapter 1
Issues at stake



1.3 A changing rural context


Although, from a commercial standpoint, one cannot deny that concrete opportunities for traditional small business firms do exist, nor that that there is a threat from competitors wishing to take advantage of available opportunities, the key issue is whether rural areas have what it takes to control the food circuit downstream.

Clearly, the gap between organised distribution channels and small local firms is gradually narrowing. This is not a phenomenon that can be explained solely by technological developments in communication systems and distribution-related services. Indeed, we are witnessing the emergence of a new form of mutual interest between consumers wishing to know more about local products and their identity, and producers, for whom the development of marketing holds out interesting economic prospects and a potentially new and motivating role as key players in the rural world.

Against this background, business development activities are important for the future of rural areas, because of:

  • their ability to involve young people;
  • their role in disseminating and reinforcing the local identity;
  • the opportunity which they offer for keeping a large portion of the added value of products in the local area.

In the case of long distribution channels, the commercial side includes a series of activities traditionally carried out by the “downstream” links in the food circuit: wholesalers, distributors, sales agencies, export companies, etc. The methods, contents and desired professional profile required for this model mean that it differs markedly from the production model. Consequently, for many rural areas, developing along these lines will call for a real “cultural revolution” if people are to acquire a market-oriented attitude and introduce specific professional profiles.

The strategy developed by the Midi-Pyrenees Chamber of Agriculture (France), aimed primarily at young people wishing to start up in farming, is an interesting example. Against a regional background characterised by a gradual decline in farming, with large-scale mixed arable and livestock farms relying on subsidies from the European Union, combined with a steady deterioration in prospects for income and employment in farming, the Chamber of Agriculture wished to focus on the rich and diversified heritage of typical local products. Its project includes several specific objectives:

  • to develop local products that are able to create added value;
  • to set up professional economic organisations for processing and/or marketing products;
  • to make even greater inroads into controlling distribution strategies.

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