Should we prohibit farmers from delivering directly to consumers? There are more and more well-intentioned initiatives for local food systems. In a local food system, there are short supply chain connections between the farmer and the consumer. Often in the form of a farm store, a food box directly from the farmer, a farmers’ market, or other initiatives. This can mean a better price for the farmer because they have to share it with fewer parties. Possibly we will even eat healthier by connecting with the farmer.
Do these local food systems also lead to less transport (and therefore less CO2 emissions)? This is the subject of worldwide research. For example, during the Transport Logistics Workdays 2022, Karin Pauls of Wageningen University presented a paper on local food systems’ main characteristics and alleged benefits described in the international scientific literature.
With fellow researchers, Karin Pauls looked at the role of logistics on local food systems’ economic and environmental performance by calculating some scenarios for the local ‘hutspot’ supply chain in the Dutch province of Flevoland.
The number of kilometers driven is nine times higher for local food systems with delivery to or pick-up by consumers than delivery to larger producers or stores. The local food systems are logistically not sustainable. The results suggest that cooperation and coordination in local food systems are necessary to achieve truly efficient and sustainable local food systems. This is also concluded in many other international studies.
Should we prohibit farmers from delivering directly to consumers? Of course not. However, the local food systems are not yet genuinely sustainable. The fragmentation among farmers and buyers is too significant. Are local food systems not more promising if they do not focus on the many consumers with their individual, small orders (for delivery or collection), but instead on large users such as restaurants, local stores, platforms such as Hellofresh, and catering companies with their dark kitchens?
Walther Ploos van Amstel.