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Rural entrepreneurship in Wales
Rural entrepreneurship in Wales

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3.4.9 Supply chain

Marsden, Banks and Bristow (2000) look more specifically at the changing nature of the supply chain, which they credit with the increasing interest in local, high quality food. They see the development of quality associated with a specific locality creating new associational networks that involve very different types of supply chains. They argue:

... short supply chains seek to redefine the producer-consumer relation by giving clear signals as to the origin of the food product. Short supply chains are also expressions of attempts by producers and consumers alike to match new types of supply and demand

… A common characteristic is the emphasis upon the type of relationship between the producer and the consumer in these supply chains, and the role of this relationship in constructing value and meaning, rather than solely the type of product itself.

Thus the supply chain becomes much shorter. Marsden et al. define three different types of ‘short food supply chains’ (SFSC). The defining characteristic of an SFSC is that the product reaches the consumer accompanied by information about the product’s origin, be it in person or on the packaging. It is this information that enables the connection between producer and consumer – it can go as far as forming an association with the values of the producer and the methods used.

Producers use one, two or all three of these SFSCs:

  1. Face-to-face: the consumer makes a purchase directly from the producer (perhaps at a farmers’ market). This personal interaction facilitates authenticity and trust. Online trading may be seen as a variation on this through highly personal web pages.
  2. Special proximity: products are produced and retailed in the specific region of production. Information at the point of sale makes consumers aware of the provenance.
  3. Spatially extended: the product is sold in all locations but value-laden information about the place of production and the people involved is given to consumers, who may have no connection with the region itself.

Engaging with these organisations or groups can help your business develop and manage its SFCSs. The Llyn Beef producer cooperative in North Wales is an excellent example of a response to new demands for quality assured, fully traceable, mature, lean beef of consistent quality. It recognises and responds to wider society needs around animal welfare and the maintenance of biodiversity on the land. The co-op was established believing that the promotion of branded Welsh beef would be successful in achieving retailer and customer loyalty and a price premium. It illustrates how new networks and supply chains have developed to support rurally-based businesses.