Multinationals partnering for sustainable food production

27 September 2019

Multinationals agriculture

Promoting sustainable agriculture in Europe: An EU-funded study explores the dos and don’ts of multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs). Some multinationals are making their moves on the sustainable food production.

Most of the food we eat today is produced through industrial agriculture, with intensive food production carried out on huge single-crop farms. Although this type of agriculture maximises productivity and lowers food prices, it has proved unsustainable, with soil erosion, water contamination, deforestation and a loss of biodiversity often causing irreversible harm to natural resources.
Researchers have argued that making food production more sustainable is in the hands of the few multinationals that control the food production system. One way for multinationals to achieve sustainable agriculture is through MSPs, in which different groups with diverse interests can share a common problem or goal. A recent study supported by the EU-funded Diverfarming project explored this concept as a way to adopt sustainable innovations in value chains.

Published on ‘SpringerOpen’, the study focuses on types of horizontal agreements and contracts that can be implemented in the agri-food supply chain. The researchers aimed to gain an understanding of the process involved in designing an MSP with sustainable agricultural practices as the ultimate objective. To this end, they chose the Barilla Sustainable Farming initiative as their case study that was in the initial stage of designing an MSP. This enabled them to pinpoint the main features needed to progress from an agreement to a proper contract between parties. As stated in the study, it’s “the main critical point for a wider implementation of these type of agreements.”

Making MSPs work

The project team found that designing a single-standard contract that made provision for different locations or division of output between stakeholders wasn’t possible. Additionally, engaging farmers was only one aspect of making MSPs viable. Stakeholders also had to commit to sharing information, communicating and evaluations in order to implement a crop rotation system, which is the purpose of an MSP.

A two-level approach was proposed when setting up a crop rotation system. The first level, namely the contract, has the purpose of engaging the farmers and providing details on crop price, crop quantity, amount of land, number of years and locations. Since one contract can’t include all elements, the rotation system requires a set of contracts, including, for example, contracts between cooperatives and farmers.

The second level focuses on the partnership and the details concerning the collaboration between the partnership’s stakeholders. These include the conversion of rotation practices, coordinating procurements and coordinating stakeholders at horizontal level. This level’s purpose is to integrate supply chains and promote engagement and collaboration between partners so that a set of contracts can be developed for farmers.

Such partnerships and their promotion of crop diversification and other sustainable management practices could play an important role in making sustainable agriculture a reality throughout Europe. Diverfarming (Crop diversification and low-input farming across Europe: from practitioners engagement and ecosystems services to increased revenues and chain organisation) aims to develop and deploy innovative farming and agribusiness strategies that will further this goal.

Published by Cordis on September 18, 2019
Image from Shutterstock


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