The role of integrated multifunctional systems for high performance agriculture

imagine articol - The role of integrated multifunctional systems for high performance agriculture

Viorica Boboc, counselor of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, conducted a research internship and documentary for a month in Italy, in a mobility program for postdoctoral research. During this meeting, Viorica Boboc had an interview with Professor Paolo Sckokai from Scro del Cuore Catholic University of Piacenza, Institute of Agricultural Economics.

Viorica Boboc : Using what essential elements would you define an integrated multifunctional management system for high performance agriculture?
Paolo Sckokai : An integrated multifunctional management system requires several elements to be well designed. First, I think farmers play the most crucial role. Farmers are entrepreneurs and they must be as free as possible in choosing their production plans and their commercial strategies. But they must be also aware that their bargaining position with respect to the other actors of the chain is disadvantaged: both processors and retailers are likely to exercise some form of oligopsony power toward farmers. Thus, both horizontal cooperation among farmers (i.e. cooperatives and/or producers’ associations) as well as vertical integration between farmers and processors (i.e inter-professional contracts) may help farmers in reaching a better position in terms of bargaining power. In order to make these institutions well functioning, one needs also an appropriate normative framework. Legislation on cooperatives, producers’ association and institutional contracts (i.e. between producers and processors/retailers representations) must be well designed as well: some experiences in the EU (i.e. France, the Netherlands) may work as reference. Finally, an appropriate legislation is crucial also to guarantee the multifunctional role of agriculture (i.e. paying the public goods produced by the farming activity). Again, since the EU legislation is just a framework legislation, appropriate steps must be taken by member states in order to ensure an appropriate use of money.

V.B : What are the key performance indicators for integrated agricultural systems on the chain of conventional or niche products (such as traditional or biological) and what is the purpose of professional and cross-professional organizations in this matter?

P.S : The key performance indicators are of course the economic margin of all actors in the chain, that must be as evenly distributed as possible and the turnover growth rate. For niche quality products, one of the key elements are the commercial strategies: depending on the size of the market, they may pursue different commercial policies (i.e. specialty shops vs. big retail chains; collective brand vs. individual firm brand;…). in this field, there is no general prescription, but the appropriate policies must be designed case by case.

V.B : Are there major conflicts when high performance levels are reached in conventional agro-food production systems? What are the issues? Who do they affect? Can they be reduced?

P.S : This is a very difficult question. Conflicts are rather common, and they have often to do with the distribution of the value added/margins among the actors of the agro-food chain. In many cases, farmers claim that processors and retailers take the largest share of the pie. This is likely to be true, given the different bargaining power of the different actors. For reducing such conflicts, one must rely on appropriate institutions like cooperatives, producers associations, contracts (see my previous answer). The point is that such institutions must be properly managed and in many cases managers fail in pursuing the interests of their stakeholders (i.e. mainly farmers). Thus, manager training is a key for successful management of high performance food chains.

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