Consumers and institutional kitchens, as well as traders, have shown increasing interest towards local food. This is particularly due to the transparency and traceability characteristic of a short supply chain and social aspects related to food origins. The trend has been increasingly common during the past decade in Europe and North America, and it is strongly evident in the case area of this study in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland. In general, ease of access to food is highly important for consumers and crucial for institutional kitchens, in addition to quality aspects and price. However, regardless of proximity, poor accessibility is one of the key issues preventing the further growth of local food markets. Due to scale economics in food value chain, food transport is presently organised mainly by centralised, large-scale logistics companies directed via hubs serving millions of consumers. Accordingly, production volumes required to enter large-scale markets are often unattainable for disjointed small-scale local food producers. In this study, geographic information system (GIS)-based accessibility analyses are applied for analysing potential for integral networking of local food production and transport companies. Berry production was selected as a case study because it has a relatively strong role in Northern Ostrobothnia, while its logistics are notably underdeveloped. Spatial data of primary production volumes consists of register records of farm-specific cultivation areas and average yields in Northern Ostrobothnia and Finland. Accessibility computations are based on the digital model of the Finnish road network, Digiroad. Two surveys were also implemented to farmers and food processing companies to seek views on food processing, sales, logistics and procurements regarding local food. Data from the surveys was used in accessibility analysis, which enables exploration of opportunities for establishing ‘local food’ clusters integrating small producers into a more effective and competitive network. Information about favourable conditions for cooperative networks in the local food sector may help in establishing companies and their growth. Again, successful networking may increase scale economies in local production in transport, processing and marketing.
Raspberries are among the most important berry crops in Latvia, but innovative solutions for their growing have not been very popular due of high implementation expenses. Use of rain shelters or other ways to protect berry production from unfavourable weather conditions can significantly increase their quality and consumer acceptance. The aim of this study was to compare different cover systems and assess their suitability for raspberry growing in Latvia. The study was conducted at the Latvia State Institute of Fruit-Growing. The cultivar ‘Glen Ample’ was grown in two types of high tunnels: Haygrove IV series and FVG (Folien-Vertriebs GmbH), and in open field. The temperature and air humidity regime in high tunnels promoted cane growth resulting in increased number of fruit laterals and yield, as well as weight of berries. Floricane length and number of fruiting laterals was significantly higher than in the open field. Similarly, the average berry weight and yield per row meter was significantly higher in tunnels than in open field, in both years of the evaluation.
In all times, fruit trees for family use have been grown at Latvian farms. Yet these fruits obtained market value only after the land ownership reform in 19th century. This facilitated rapid area increase of different fruit crops, allowing supply with fruits not only the local market, but also for export to the largest cities of Russia. Especially fast development of fruit-growing was observed during the first independent republic (1919–1940). The demand for planting material increased, and plants were imported from Western Europe. Choice of unsuitable cultivars and rootstocks was the main reason of the massive orchard area loss during the following severe winters. After the Second World War, the Soviet powers supported only the establishment of large orchards for processing needs, 200-300 ha, which were unsuitable for the Latvian climate and terrain. At the same time, numbers of allotment gardens rapidly increased and part of their produce was sold also on the market. After regaining of independence and private property, interest in fresh fruit and berry production for market, as well as processing, renewed. It was hindered by lack of continuity in experience and knowledge. Diversity of terrain, soils and climate all demand considerate choice of suitable orchard location and cultivars. Direct use of foreign experience often led to failure. At present, development of the fruit industry is most of all hindered by lack of qualified specialists of different levels, which does not allow to establish an appropriate consulting system. Cooperation of growers for easier marketing also is developing too slowly. Insufficient economic and market research does not allow to balance the demand with increase of plantation area, especially for large-scale processing and export, so strategic guidance of the fruit industry is not possible. Development of fruit-growing is hindered also by a lack of continuous long-term support to horticultural science. As a result of research by the Institute of Horticulture: 1) new local breeding fruit crop cultivars were obtained and recommended for commercial orchards; variety testing including growing technologies was initiated in different regions of Latvia; 2) monitoring of harmful and favourable organisms was conducted in plantations, with development of a system for prognosis and control; and 3) research results were transferred to growers through practical recommendations, publications, seminars and demonstrations.
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