In France, what we call “short-circuit retail”—food retail with few stages between producers and consumers—attracts more and more consumers who want to eat high-quality food. Usually, farmers use short-circuit retail in conjunction with other methods of selling food products.
Two types of short-circuit commerce can be distinguished:
- “direct selling” : the farmer sells directly his production to the consumer;
- “indirect selling”: there is one intermediary, but no more, between the farmer and the consumer. Ex: the farmer sells its products directly to a restaurant or a supermarket.
In 2010 in France, around 21% of farmers have sold their products through short-circuit retail. This rate is higher for some specialized productions:
- 51% of beekeepers,
- 46% of vegetable growers
- 26% of fruits growers or winemakers
Selling through short-circuit retail enables farmers to increase their profit margins, to reduce transportation costs. It also creates jobs in rural areas; indeed, producers who sell their products through short-circuit retail are employing twice as many workers as conventional farmers. Usually, farmers use short-circuits retail in conjunction with other methods of selling food products. Selling through short-circuit retail also establishes a closer relationship between producers and consumers, which is one of the goals of the French National Program for Food.
In this framework, the French government launched an action plan in June 2009 to support this new sales method.
Various websites are available to help consumers buy local or regional food through short-circuit retails. Farmers can sign in and sell their products on line or just be indexed on this website. It is a first step to a healthier and more sustainable way to supply food!
- Exemple of Direct Selling :
At farm level (main way of selling through short-circuit retail):
If you live in a rural area or take vacations in the countryside, you can stop at a farm to buy food. Fifty percent of farmers selling through short-circuit retail are also engaged in direct selling at the farm level.
Moreover, many farms are also welcoming tourists for a night or more. It is a good occasion to learn more about agriculture and to taste flavored homemade dishes. It is also a good way to educate people about French gastronomic heritage, which is part of the French National Program for Food. Another example : France is very popular for its wine.
Therefore “oenotourism,” which enables consumers to visit wineries, to buy wine directly at the cellar, to learn about wine making process, tastes and quality linked to the “terroir,” is promoted by the French government.
The weekly farmers market:
In France, almost every town or village has its weekly market. Food stands in the streets, local and fresh food and conviviality can be found at the “rendez-vous!” In 2007, some 1,000 farms were concerned and 100,000 consumers shopped at these markets on a regular basis. These markets are the second-largest mode of selling through the short-circuit retail.
An original way of getting local food: AMAP or Association of Farmers and Consumers to Maintain Family Farming
Consumers who subscribe to an AMAP commit to buying from a specific farmer for a six-month period of time or more. Then, every week, the farmer gives a basket with vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, dairy products or fish according to the contract. Products are usually not much more expansive than in a supermarket, but the entire benefit goes to the farmer. Not to mention that the consumer enjoys high-quality and fresh products!
Ten years after the creation of the first AMAP, there are today more than 1,600 AMAP chapters in France and 70,000 customers. Even in Paris, 150 AMAP chapters exist: local and fresh food is not only for those who live in the country!
- Examples of “indirect selling”
Farmers can also sell their products to their town’s supermarket, small-scale grocery stores or restaurants. This is the third-largest way of selling through short-circuit retail, from 20% to 40% of the producers.
To conclude, try local and regional food! There are many choices for everyone’s tastes.