(photo courtesy of DFID)

The food supply chain (the production,
processing and distribution of food from farms to the food on consumers' plates)
is in the

UK news again

With the
question of ‘how far can markets decide the future of food supplies?’ in mind, the
government is set to announce a more sustainable food supply system and healthier choices
for the consumer, and the opposition party (the Conservatives) are promising to
introduce an ombudsman to help producers deal with the power of the
supermarkets. Under the theme ‘Are supermarkets warping the system'?’,
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City
University, and Andrew Opie, director of food policy for the British Retail
Consortium, debated the future of food supply and how the supermarkets affect
that supply, on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’
on the 5th January.

With similar
concerns in mind, on the 28th October 2009, the EU Commission agreed
a Communication
that aims to improve the functioning of the food supply chain in Europe.
In order to overcome the
challenges identified and improve the functioning of the chain, in 2010, the
Commission proposes to:

Promote sustainable and market-based relationships between
stakeholders of the food supply chain
(in particular working with Member States to
better identify unfair contractual practices stemming from uneven bargaining

Increase transparency in the food supply chain (particularly how food prices evolve)

Foster the integration of the internal market
for food and the competitiveness of all sectors of the food supply chain.

In a paper
entitled 'Food security in the future – trade, markets and investments' presented on the 20th October 2009, at the
CABI Global Summit on food security in a climate of change held in London, Mr
Mohammed Rafiq, Senior Vice President for Programs, Rainforest Alliance, highlighted how this organization is working with farmers
to overcome some of these current food chain concerns. Under the auspices of the Sustainable
Agriculture Network
(SAN), an international coalition of leading
conservation groups, the Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to ensure
compliance with the SAN standards for protecting wildlife, wild lands, workers'
rights and local communities. Farms that meet these rigorous standards are
awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. Part of this certification

More efficient farm management as the certification
program helps farmers organize, plan, schedule improvements, implement better
practices, identify problems and monitor progress.

Improved conditions for farm workers — who are getting fair
wages, decent housing, clean drinking water, sanitary facilities and a safe and
wholesome work area. Workers and their families have access to schools, health
care, transportation and training.

Improved profitability and competitiveness for
who have increased production, improved quality, reduced worker
complaints and increased worker efficiency. The Rainforest Alliance Certified
seal of approval gives the farmers more leverage at the time of sale, product
differentiation, premium prices and improved access to credit.

One of
the key success factors to meet the farmers’ challenges just mentioned includes
the ability to innovate.
Among the actors of the food system
and between the food system and the political, economic, technical,
socio-cultural, and natural environment, dynamic interactions and
interdependencies occur. These dynamics cause a constant challenge for all actors
in the food system towards the development of strategies that ensure
sustainability and competitiveness for themselves and for the food sector as a
whole. With this in mind, the

International European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food
, 8-12 Februrary 2010, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria,
is to look at innovations
for the food system regarding production, organization (internal processes,
logistics, and marketing), technology,
and management including
the flexibility and speed to adapt to changing conditions and scenarios.

System innovations and dynamics
in food chains and networks could focus on such diverse elements as:

  • inter-company quality systems and quality

  • financing,

  • inter-organizational information systems (e.g.
    for chain management or tracking and tracing),

  • risk management, regional or global logistics

  • chain governance structures,

  • regional or global logistics systems,

  • new business-to-business relationships that
    are highly responsive to dynamic consumer and market demands, etc.

The concerns for the food supply chain going into 2010 are great for all
farmers’ across the globe, but as we can see, progress is being made through
groups such as the Rainforest Alliance to address fair trade, governments and
organizations such as the EU are taking an interest in competitiveness issues
and possible areas of improvement and problems are being identified with
seminars such as the above looking to find solutions. We look forward to some
positive outcomes!

1 Comment

  1. andrew b/khan on 19th March 2010 at 9:28 am

    dear sir,
    would you please let me have the personal e mail address of
    Mr.Mohammad Rafiq svp for programs Rainforest Alliance.
    best regrads,

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