On Friday, 25th of June, the National Centre for Biodiversity and Genetic Preservation in Gödöllő hosted a new initiative with the aim of bringing together actors from short food supply chains (‘SFSC’). The I. Short Food Supply Chain Expo and Conference is a unique event with the partcipation of those organizations, companies which can help those producers who sell their products through SFSCc and those who work with them. These organizations presented their products or the services they provide in the exhibitors’ area. Besides the exhibiton the SMARTCHAIN Horizon 2020 project’s closing event was held, the results of the project were presented by the Hungarian partners and renowned specialists were invited to have roundtable discussions about the situation in Hungary connected to the main topic of the results.
Among the most important findings of the conference, it should be highlighted that one of the key factors in the development of SFSCs is the involvement of “gastronomic ambassadors”, who can present new ingredients, recipes and tastes to the consumers in a way that is easy to accept and will be searched by them in the future. This also requires cooperation between rural and urban restaurants, for whom the purchase of products from producers often requires serious effort. On the one hand this may be due to a change in quality and quantity and a surge in gastronomic demand on the other hand, so farmers can’t plan for long term.
Whether we are talking about small or larger stakeholders, one of the biggest challenges today is price competition against the price of imported products. In the case of local producers, price competition should not be allowed, but instead the main objective would be to increase the population’s budget for food. This was supported by a research carried out in the SMARTCHAIN project, which showed that in richer countries consumers choose SFSC products sooner, even if their prices are higher, in terms of average income for consumers.
Several experts highlighted that one of the major barriers to the use of local raw materials is expensive and polluting transport resulting from small batches. A solution could be logistical centres at the local level, or the so-called food hubs in the American term. The aim is to implement the system of the large-business logistics into a smaller solution. This requires targeted investment programmes, EU and state involvement too. However, facilitating the logistics of local products would also play a major role in the supply of materials for public catering.
The magic terms ‘cooperation’ and ‘acceptance’ was also used by the experts and are – in their view – inescapable, whether between producers or between farmers and consumers. Small players cannot succeed on their own, or only at the cost of very large energy investments, which is often not available. The good examples presented in the workshop are – without exception – some kind of cooperation that allows for joint advocacy, reduction of costs (e.g. investment, marketing) and greater presence in the media.
The experts also looked at environmental aspects, including the feasibility of sustainable packaging. The key aspect here is awareness, which has not yet reached a profitable level in Hungary. However, experts have pointed out that there are alternative solutions on the market that can reduce the ecological footprint of products even without compostable materials. One of the most important criteria is to keep the materials in maximum cycle and to preserve and keep the wrapped food products fresh.
Several exhibitors presented their developments and services in colourful stalls to answer these questions, challenges of the conference. The exhibitors were companies and organizations that presented food safety, processing, sales, and packaging tools specifically for small producers, among others. Among the consultation desks, visitors could get a lot of information on organic, social farm, small farmers, family farmer directly from the experts of these topics. On this occasion, SFSC organizers and producers were able to ask questions free of charge to official and product development professionals. The breaths of fresh air on the exhibition were the already functioning SFSC organizations, who raised the standard of the exhibition by presenting their wares and producers.