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Reengaging with customers: proximity is essential but not enough

Moustier P.. 2013. In : Batt Peter J. (ed.). Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on improving the performance of supply chains in the transitional economies, Cebu, The Philippines, July 4-7, 2012. Louvain : ISHS [Belgique], p. 17-33. (Acta Horticulturae, 1006). International Symposium on Improving the Performance of Supply Chains in the Transitional Economies. 4, 2012-07-04/2012-07-07, Cebu (Philippines).

The growing distrust of consumers in the safety of food is widely documented in both developed and transitional economies. This is related to the growing intensification and industrialisation of food production and processing, as well as the growing distance between food production and food consumption sites. Farmers commonly complain about the increasing marketing power of modern distribution, which often imposes unfavourable terms of exchange and discourages efforts to implement quality assurance systems. In the literature, proximity between producers and consumers be it geographical or relational is said to be advantageous in many respects. Geographical proximity is economically more efficient in perishable commodity supply chains compared to more distant supply areas. Regular interaction between producers and consumers and between buyers and sellers promotes trust, the sharing of information, joint investment and risk-taking, with a sense of responsibility on both sides. An alternative to proximity is standardisation and certification, but these processes generate costs that are difficult for smallholder farmers to bear. On the other hand, the literature is increasingly challenging the so-called superiority of proximity over distance as regards food chain sustainability. When distant supply areas are characterised by specialisation and large-scale production, this may result in economies of scale and lower costs in terms of production and transport. Trust cannot circumvent all risks of moral hazard. Regular interaction combined with some form of control and certification is desirable, even if based only on some minimal process of documentation. It is better to promote complementarities between personal trust and standards, and between short and long chains, rather than to consider them as opposites. (Résumé d'auteur)

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