DThe press release is issued by vzw Climaxi, CV Eco & Fair, Boerenforum, CV Ourobouros, FIAN, vzw Voedselteams and Linked Farm.
Businesses, citizens and governments, all are struggling with the successive systemic crises (energy, climate, war). For the small producers and traders in the short chain, all these crises roll in at the same time: they find it difficult to obtain raw materials, suffer from energy prices and pay dearly for transport. Several of them drop out or reduce production and supply. This carries a huge risk: our food supply is in danger of finally falling into the hands of industry, with all the consequences it entails: dull taste, environmental pollution, loss of authenticity…
Just before corona, the short chain in Belgium started to flourish: more and more farm shops, bigger initiatives, small processing companies appeared. Together they delivered a nice selection of local and authentic products. The local economy improved and small businesses mushroomed in every town or city. From vegetables, syrups, ready meals to beer and wine: Flanders and Wallonia rediscovered their own tastes and products.
During corona, they could count on growth that enabled them to recover investments and costs. After all, they had never seen it: production/sale was never really profitable without cheap labor (family and volunteers), subsidies (protected workshops) or a double dose of creativity: those who could play a niche (catering, increase turnover via internet sales or building networks, catering…) turned out quite well.
After corona, this perspective was no longer achieved: People again choose supermarkets with low prices. People forget that they can only keep their lowest price by putting pressure on producers, diluting food, launching monocultures or cheating with the brand. Sometimes they (Colruyt) buy up agricultural or fishing grounds to also get control of production and thus break the small producers even more.
Falling sales have been offset by rising costs since the energy crisis. In addition, there is the climate crisis, which many people can directly feel: there is not enough grass for some types of cheese, those who import poultry from France to raise it here have lost their animals due to the bird flu, a huge amount is needed water which suddenly falls from the sky in buckets and destroys crops. Added to this are rising energy and transport prices.
The results are visible: Local market has 1 market left, In Nukerke the local Boerkoos market closed, producers close. Organizations like Food Teams are struggling. All say they are struggling with a 20 to 30% revenue loss. Some multinational companies are watching like vultures for possible expansion of their markets.
If nothing happens, you can expect a short chain that will basically capsize, with all the consequences it entails: loss of taste, employment, local economy. Let’s also not forget that the short chain ensures fair prices, limits climate damage by not having all goods transported around the world and is by far the best system for public health. Industrial food will not save our world!
It is therefore time for governments to come out of their shell: making plans, drawing up guidance and implementing sales promotions, it’s all good. But manufacturers cannot survive with that. Only with a fair price for a decent product can we work on the transition and help farmers to continue working with climate-adapted agriculture, rooted in well-supported local marketing.
The government, meanwhile, is required to buy industrial food at the lowest possible cost through central procurement agencies. This is where the shoe pinches: if the government still wants a short chain to exist, it will have to do its own shopping and replace systems like meal, eco and other checks with real wages, or open them up to the smaller sectors.
Food security should ensure that decent food is available to all citizens. People will have to guarantee people’s incomes by improving the index instead of reducing it. And support low incomes in the local purchase of healthy food at the right price, just as they are now doing with the energy measures to compensate for the high prices. Several industrial sectors have made good money from the climate crisis, the energy crisis or corona and were supported in all possible ways by the government. They can pay the bill. It will be choose or share.