Changing how food is distributed

"We work towards the decentralization of food chains, promoting diversified markets based on solidarity and fair prices, and short supply chains and intensified relations between producers and consumers in local food webs to counter the expansion and power of supermarkets.” (Nyéléni Europe Declaration, August 2011)

For over two decades, agricultural markets have been organized within an increasingly deregulated market system, allowing a few big players to dominate all the links in the chain. Nowadays, only ten retailers control forty per cent of the European food supply, from food production to processing and distribution. Due to the increased power of supermarkets and distributors, farmers and food producers have been trapped with a sole outlet for their production, forcing them to accept marginal rewards for their products and contracts that do not allow them to live a decent life.

To counter this trend, a new food culture is needed that encourages critical thinking about the practices of production, marketing, labour conditions, health risks and taste for industrial food production. Across Europe, people are organising to reform the current food chain into flexible, territorial food systems based on direct and short distribution systems. The recent growth in the number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups is a vivid example of this, as is the recent development of local food co-ops and collective farmer-run retail shops. Farmers’ markets are also an essential part of this territorial food system. We need to support our farmers by training them on alternative ways of distributing their produce, as well as educating the general public about the importance of re-localising their food systems.

Outreach through campaigning only will not be enough to accomplish a true transformation of our food culture: we have to start teaching children at an early age and we need policies that support local, alternative markets including in the field of public procurement.