On the 26th May 2016, a seminar was held by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) on the links between RDP (Rural Development Programme) Support and the Food & Drink Supply Chain in Brussels as part of the ENRD thematic work on ‘Smart and Competitive Rural Areas’. The thematic work is of particular interest for mountain actors as it gives tools to develop strategies based on the territorial assets of each rural area.
Focusing on cooperation and investments, the seminar looked at the opportunities provided within the RDPs to increase the competitiveness of sustainable products and service of farms, firms and other rural actors. It gathered stakeholders of the ENRD such as National and Regional Managing Authorities and European Union (EU) Organisations including Euromontana.
Smart and Competitive Rural Areas
The concept of smart specialisation is included in the EU 2020 strategies. Applying it to the development of rural areas, ENRD thematic work aims to identify strategies and tools available for enabling different types of rural areas to be economically competitive while at the same time preserving their natural resources and social cohesion.
Developing smart food supply chains
During the plenary session, the speakers highlighted critical action areas for developing smart food supply chains. Jan Willem van der Schans from Wageningen University presented some innovative examples where power along the value chain was more fairly distributed.
Each innovation made use of the current system to have more efficient food chains and a better distribution of added value. The role of each actor was redefined putting in place shared production, processing, logistics or distribution and so filling better the needs of the actors.
Together with James Withers from Scotland Food & Drink, he stressed the challenges of building cooperation models including farmers and of developing policies including agriculture, food and health.
Using RDPs measures to tackle the critical action areas
Several workshops were organised to discuss about solutions to tackle those critical action areas using different measures of the RDPs. In each of the workshops, key points were identified to help enabling rural areas to be more competitive through adding value throughout the supply chain.
Inclusion has been mentioned several times during the workshops. Indeed, the participants stressed the essential need to include knowledge exchange, cooperation and continuity in the projects undertaken. In this process, both informal and formal advisory groups were recognised as very helpful to create synergy between the actors and to include farmers by offering them a space to innovate. The Measure 16 ‘cooperation’ of the RDPs is seen as a catalyser to help implementing such projects. However, it is still early to have a clear overview on its impact.
What comes next
ENRD will soon publish a factsheet to summarise the findings of the thematic group. For now, you can find more information on the corresponding webpage.
If you want to know more about smart specialisation, the European Commission has developed a S3 Platform providing advices to regional actors for the design and implementation of their research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3). A platform specifically targeting agri-food will be launch soon.31 May 2016