Short supply chain, concepts and values


Short supply chain‘, ‘Km0‘. The tricolor is already the most established logo, on more than 10 thousand of the 72,100 shelf labels surveyed in the GS1-Italy Immagino 2018 report. And ‘100% Italian‘ is the rising star, +7.8% sales over 2017. We then go further to express the value of integrated supply chains over circumscribed areas. Beware, however, of words and their meanings.

The ‘short supply chain’ in EU law

The concept of ‘short supply chain’ first appeared in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with the idea of supporting and promoting sustainable rural development. Except then to exclude peasant and family farming from access to grants that are in fact reserved for macro-scale crops, regardless of their actual impact on the ecosystem.

The European legislature of 2013 reported interest in ”The promotion and organization of the food supply chain, including the processing and marketing of agricultural products, animal welfare, and risk management in the agricultural sector, with special emphasis on improving the competitiveness of primary producers by better integrating them into the agrifood chain through quality schemes‘. And thus, ‘the creation of added value for agricultural products, the promotion of products in local markets, short supply chains, producer associations and organizations, and interprofessional organizations.’

Short supply chain: a supply chain formed by a limited number of economic actors who are committed to promoting cooperation, local economic development and close socio-territorial relationships between producers, processors and consumers.’ (1)

Short supply chain, concepts and values

Cooperation and local economic development, holy words, with social – as well as territorial – ‘close relations‘ between those who produce, those who process and those who consume. Applied literally, the concept expressed by the European legislature is roughly that of kolchoz. Splendid but out of date, unfortunately. Instead, here and now ‘short supply chain’ can be considered to postulate the following requirements:

– Direct trade relations between primary agricultural production, processing and distribution. The reference to ‘a limited number of economic operators‘ seems compatible with aggregations of producers (e.g., cooperatives and consortia) but certainly not with the various stages of intermediation that still characterize some agricultural supply chains,

– the agricultural stage should be localized in as defined and circumscribed an area as possible. Relating at least to the primary ingredients of processed foods. Thus processing that enhances local raw materials and ensures continuity of supply, while respecting fair trade practices, can realize ‘local economic cooperation and development. When it even occurs in a different Region of the country, (2)

– trust is in fact the basis of ‘close socio-territorial relations (…) with consumers‘. Just the kind of trust that is still lacking, for example, in food sales by global ecommerce giants. The social relationship must therefore be sought in the guarantee of the effective sustainability of productions, that is, Respect for the environment and populations.

The social pact is thus the trait d ‘union that binds the players in the supply chain. Farmers and ranchers, processors and packers, distributors and consumers. Wherever these are based, the logic remains that of an integrated supply chain from seed to fork and from feed to fork, even in a digital economy and across markets of varying sizes. Without ever losing sight of any of the elements that truly qualify a food supply chain as sustainable. Where:

sustainable agriculture finds true expression, in fact, only in the organic system, (3)

work must come guaranteed, infairness of conditions and rights. And tracked, even in the minimum hourly wage, also making use of innovative tracking systems (e.g., Wiise Chain),

good business practices must also be ensured, introducing true transparency into the value chain. The ‘cake,’ that is, the final price of products, must be light so that all consumers can buy ‘good and fair’ food. And slices of the pie must be shared fairly, taking into account the actual contribution of each player, in production and distribution. Only then can it really refer, in earnest, to ‘close social relations.’ Since ‘cooperation‘ is referred to, not subalternity and speculation.

Fair supply chains that respect ecosystems, individuals, and animal welfare, based on the objective value of humane and ethical activities on territories. Chains therefore short, and educated. #WiiseChain, indeed.


Dario Dongo


(1) See reg. EU 1305/2013 ‘on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)‘, Art. 2.1(m)

(2) The short supply chain is a sustainable development model that must be able to offer an alternative to the globalized supply chain. Circumscribing maximum distances between growers, processors, and distributors to a small area (e.g., regional level) may actually frustrate these objectives

(3) Reference only to ‘integrated pest management‘ or ‘integrated agriculture‘ should instead be understood as an unfair information practice, contrary to reg. EU 1169/11 (Article 7.1.c). Since this is an agronomic method prescribed for all operators in Europe, its mere assertion does not distinguish one product from others that belong to the same category.

Different is the case with ‘zero residue‘ and other similar wording (see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade .it/etichette/senza-glifosate-residui-zero-valori-e-regole)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.