Accessibility of Local Food Production to Regional Markets – Case of Berry Production in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland

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Abstract

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.

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