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Encouraging Collective Farmers Marketing Initiatives

Final Report Summary - COFAMI (Encouraging Collective Farmers Marketing Initiatives)

New forms of collective action of farmers potentially provide an answer to the challenges set to European agriculture by changing market and policy conditions. By pooling ideas, experiences and capital, Collective farmers marketing initiatives (COFAMIs) enable farmers to strengthen their collective bargaining power towards other market parties, build up market knowledge and linkages, and create a favourable environment for the dissemination of skills and best practices. More generally, COFAMIs have the potential to reinforce rural incomes and employment, strengthen synergies with other economic activities, and bring agriculture more in line with the demands set by wider society.

Against this background, the COFAMI project has studied the empirical range and diversity of different types of producer cooperation in marketing across Europe with the aim to identify limiting / enabling factors for their emergence, operation and performance and to formulate appropriate strategies and measures of support.

Across Europe, new forms of dynamism can be observed in collective action of farmers that go beyond traditional cooperative mechanisms of pooling volume and building countervailing power. New collective marketing initiatives apply a diversity of strategies - sometimes in combination - that are crucial to take into account to understand their functioning and (potential) impacts. In terms of empirical expressions, new collective marketing initiatives can be distinguished in:
a) quality food products;
b) regional food products;
c) P2C cooperations;
d) non-food products, services and public goods;
e) region branding initiatives.
In terms of underlying strategic orientations they can be distinguished in:
a) quality differentiation through chain networks;
b) quality differentiation though territorial networks and dedicated markets;
c) development of markets for new goods and services.

COFAMIs are mainly driven by the collective entrepreneurship and initiative of member farmers, but have in common that they build and capitalise on new networks beyond the agricultural sector. However, the nature of relevant (chain, territorial, community, private-public) networks is highly differentiated amongst COFAMI strategies.

COFAMIs develop their activities, capacities and impacts over longer periods of time, and in this process go through different life cycle stages. Additionally, COFAMIs may develop from very different initial and pre-existing organisations and social networks - including totally new initiatives, innovations within existing producer associations, and spin-off from territorial (e.g. LEADER) policy schemes. Differences in life-cycle stages, transitions amongst these, and path dependencies due to their particular background are crucial to understand their functioning, (potential) impacts and design appropriate support strategies.