13 May 2024

Marion Banide

Farmer Protests: When sustainability collides with economic reality- Part 1

Solving the dilemma between affordability, profitability,
and sustainability

The sourcing of sustainable, ethically produced food often incurs higher costs due to increased investment in sustainable farming methods, certification fees and limited economies of scale (from reduced yields). Additionally, the unpredictability of weather patterns contributes to supply uncertainty, further burdening farmers committed to responsible farming practices.

While these elevated costs should logically result in higher prices for end-consumers, retailers’ strategy to maintain competitive (low) pricing leads to progressive squeezing of farmers’ margins. This not only undermines the farmer’s ability to sustainably produce in the long run, but also jeopardises their very livelihood. Globalization, while expanding market opportunities for farmers, has also subjected them to intense competition, often favouring larger agri-food conglomerates at the expense of smaller, familial farms.

To address this multifaceted issue, solutions must delicately balance the needs of consumers and producers. Policymakers have responded by enacting regulations such as the Due Diligence Directive, to bolster farmers’ position within the supply chain. Additionally, initiatives like the Unfair Trade Practices Directive seek to regulate buyer-seller relationships, fostering fairer commercial conduct.

Furthermore, the concept of shared responsibility and fair price, promoted by both European and non-European farmers, advocates for the equitable distribution of costs related to sustainability among all stakeholders in the supply chain, specifically to those actors who notably have more negotiating power and tend to be price-makers, such as retailers and processors. By fostering collaboration and collective action, shared responsibility promotes a more sustainable and resilient food system for both producers and consumers alike.

However, while these are positive steps, policies still overlook the profound impact of climate change and shifting weather patterns on agriculture productivity. Addressing climate-related challenges is paramount to ensuring the long-term sustainability of food production systems.

Click here to read the next part: Farmer protests: When sustainability collides with economic reality- Part 2. Empowering consumers to make sustainable food choices.

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13 May 2024

Marion Banide

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