EU Initiatives

Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.

JRC scientific and policy reports


The present study aims at describing the state-of-play of short food supply chains (SFSC) in the EU understood as being the chains in which foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer and for which the number of intermediaries between farmer and consumer should be minimal or ideally nil.

Several types of SFSCs can be identified, for example, CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture), on-farm sales, off-farm schemes (farmers markets, delivery schemes), collective sales in particular towards public institutions, being mostly local / proximity sales and in some cases distance sales.

Such type of food chain has specific social impacts, economic impacts at regional and farm level as well as environmental impacts translating themselves into a clear interest of consumers. SFSCs are present throughout the EU, although there are some differences in the different MS in terms of dominating types of SFSCs. In general, they are dominantly small or microenterprises, composed of small-scale producers, often coupled to organic farming practices. Social values (quality products to consumers and direct contact with the producer) are the values usually highlighted by SFSCs before environmental or economic values.

In terms of policy tools, there are pros and cons in developing a specific EU labelling scheme which could bring more recognition, clarity, protection and value added to SFSCs, while potential costs might be an obstacle.

Anyhow, a possible labelling scheme should take into account the current different stages and situations of development of SFSCs in the EU and be flexible enough accommodate these differences. Other policy tools, in particular training and knowledge exchange in marketing and communication, are considered important and should continue to be funded by Rural Development programmes, as well as possibly other EU funds in view of the positive social and not specifically rural impacts.
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Agreement reached on the future Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in B2B relationships in the food supply chain.

The European Parliament and the European Council have reached on agreement on the future Directive on Unfair Trading Practices. Published on 12 April 2018, the proposal aims at making sure that smaller operators in the food supply chain are not too vulnerable facting the bargaining power of bigger buyers. The objective of this directive will be to harmonise the understanding of the phenomenon through common definitions, to ensure the same rules apply everywhere within the internal market. Next steps will be the official endorsements from the Parliament and Council for final adoption
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Brexit: Guidelines by the European Commission

Guidelines on preparedness for Brexit: preparedness notices, legislative initiatives, and other preparedness activities, compiled by the European Commission.

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New regulation on the transparency of the food chain officially adopted

Aiming at modernising the Food Law, the Regulation on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment model in the food chain was voted in plenary by the European Parliament. It plans on delivering more transparency with ensuring better access to scientific studies, but also on making sure that the studies on which the decisions are based are more reliable and independent. Other major points include a renewed governance, reinforcing the contribution of Member States to EFSA’s governance and scientific Panels, and effective risk communication based on improved coordination between risk assessors and managers.
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European Parliament policy briefing

Short food supply chains and local food systems in the EU

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Funding opportunities at EU level

A useful resources is this search engine on EU-level funding opportunities:

The brochure Funding Opportunities provides information on European Union level funding sources. It also points to national and regional funding which will be available starting from the end of 2014, and where to find information for your region.

National Initiatives


Irish Government-funded support initiatives for small food start-ups

  1. Origin Green

Origin Green is Ireland’s food and drink sustainability programme. It is a voluntary programme, led by Bord Bia, that brings together our food industry – from farmers to food producers, retailers to foodservice operators – with the common goal of sustainable food production. This programme enables Ireland’s food industry to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets that respect the environment and serve local communities more effectively.  Crucially, Origin Green is about measuring and improving how we do this on an ongoing basis. Origin Green members include farmers and food businesses such as food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators.

  1. Foodwise 2025

Food Wise 2025 sets out a ten-year plan for the agri-food sector. It underlines the sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy, and it illustrates the potential which exists for this sector to grow even further. The Food Wise 2025 strategy was agreed by a committee of 35 stakeholders from the agri-food sector. It foresees a sector that acts more strategically and achieves a competitive critical mass in the international marketplace while targeting more quality conscious consumers who will recognise and reward Ireland’s food producers for their sustainable production and high-quality produce.

The sub-title of Food Wise is “Local Roots, Global Reach”, reflecting the importance of gaining a deep understanding of what consumers, often in distant markets, really want, and communicating those messages back to Irish farmers and food companies. Equally important is to communicate key messages about what makes Irish food unique to the international market.

  1. Food Works Ireland

Food Works is a government supported accelerator programme that helps develop the next generation of scaleable and export driven Irish food businesses.

  • You’ll get to attend a series of workshops designed to help build a robust investor-ready business plan.
  • A customised business adviser support package will be planned.
  • Qualitative research, through focus groups, is used to generate deep consumer insight to help refine your brand and offering.
  • You will get a deeper understanding of the retail environment at workshops and presentations given by leading Irish retailers.

  1. The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA)

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme encourages people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If you take part in the BTWEA scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years. BTWEA is a payment made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to people aged under 66.

  1. MicroFinance Fund

The Government has developed a Microfinance fund aimed at start-up, new or growing enterprises across all sectors, with no more than 10 employees. Loans of up to €25, 000 are available for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks.

For more information:

  1. Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland’s investment in its client companies is keenly focused on export and job creation potential. Enterprise Ireland has a broad spectrum of supports, which are focused on meeting client companies’ development needs at various stages of development. In addition to its existing offer for Irish companies, Enterprise Ireland recently launched a series of new supports with the objective of achieving growth in exports and jobs.

  1. Citizens Information

This government website provides information on how to set up a business or become self-employed. If you are thinking of setting up a business, there are a number of issues you need to consider. Different supports and regulations apply, depending on your situation. You may be employed, unemployed or someone who is coming from outside Ireland to set up a business. This website highlights some of the important information you need to know with links to relevant topics.

  1. Food Safety Authority – food labels

The FSAI provides new food businesses with a comprehensive range of background information. The FSAI’s primary focus is to assist food businesses to achieve good hygiene standards and comply with the law. One of these laws is the new regulations on food labelling that were developed in 2014. These rules replaced the previous rules on food labelling which were first introduced in 1979 and the nutrition labelling rules which were adopted in 1990.

  1. Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credits

Generous R&D tax credits are available to start-ups in Ireland.  Even if you are in the loss-making start-up phase, these tax breaks may provide immediate cash flow benefits. For example, you could eliminate or reduce your social security contributions by crediting them against your R&D spend. Click here to learn more about the R&D Tax Credit Scheme. One of the latest government initiatives is called ‘Knowledge Development Box’. It offers a preferential rate on assets such as patents which are managed from Ireland and located here.

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