Want A Better Food Supply Chain? Empower the Farmers!

Since 30 years ago, multiple initiatives have created new obligations for millions of farmers. The story generally goes like this: under pressure from consumers and/or lawmakers, a new set of rules is defined by a group of global retailers or brands. Then, enforced from top to bottom. Compliance is seen as ''a cost to stay in business'' and not as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.

This top-down approach has allowed big brands to know a little bit more about their direct suppliers. But mostly, despite decades of effort, they still do not know much about their suppliers' suppliers. Nine tenths of the supply chain (and potential hazards) remains beyond the horizon. Why? Because there is no reward for participating suppliers. Only the threat to be delisted if they do not comply. The deeper you go into the supply chain, the more abstract the threat becomes, the less effective the top-down approach is. 

If you want a better global supply food chain, you need to change the approach.

Empower farmers by supporting them with training and investment. Building control with capacity building. Coaching and supporting, not only monitoring and delisting. Dealing with your suppliers' suppliers is the same as dealing with your own employees. Either you do not think they can learn and improve – in that case, suppliers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of control put in place. 

Or you believe they can learn and grow, in which case you will invest in training and support. Assuming farmers are ambitious, self-motivated, anxious to accept greater responsibility and exercise self-control, self-direction, autonomy and empowerment, then yes, there is a chance for greater performance, by giving farmers the freedom to perform to the best of their abilities, without being bogged down by hundreds of rules.

SGS believe the right approach to be both top-down (as you need a framework to start with and a first strong impulse to set things in motion) and bottoms-up (real change will only come from the mass of small suppliers, not from the top of the food chain).

The time has come to provide real incentives to the farmers, growers, and fishermen – not only instructions. We live in an era of connected communities, not anymore in feudal times. For too long, it was assumed that consumers and producers were at polar opposites, but in reality these two groups love each other and can now reconnect through digital and social media. Consumers want to know if what they eat is good for them, and the world. Farmers have the answers. They will gladly provide them if they are incentivized for it, through an easier access to best practices and low cost capital, allowing them to invest in food safety and compliance.

Want a better food supply chain? Empower the farmers.

© Cecile Camerlynk, Director of Marketing at Transparency-One and George Le Nigen, Global Sales Manager, Transparency One at SGS