Published June 29, 2019 | Version v2
Project deliverable Open

Governance in European Food Value Chains


1. This report presents findings from eight national studies into the governance of five European food value chains: liquid cow’s milk, beef steak, farmed salmon, processed tomato, and bread from wheat. Each study evaluates the governance of the value chain through the different stages of production, processing and retail, following the transformation from farmed/grown commodity to final food product. The studies are situated within broad regulatory frameworks of state-led policies at the European and national level, while also encompassing governance initiatives originating from corporate and societal actors. A Global Value Chains governance approach was used to create an initial characterization of value chain structures and inter-firm relationships. This provided a starting point for further analysis of individual value chain dynamics and relationship interactions. Attention is paid, where relevant, to issues such as value chain structure and product flow, industry structure and concentration, contractual arrangements, price negotiations, trade, consumption patterns and different EU and state led regulatory interventions. The research draws on existing literatures and documentary sources, further exploring stakeholder perspectives through a series of 50 qualitative in-depth interviews across the five value chains. Interviews allowed for a deeper exploration of the different perceptions of relationships dynamics felt by actors across each value chain.


2. The introductory chapter elaborates on the aims of the research task, and on both the conceptual approaches to governance used and the research methods deployed. The chapter also explains in more detail some of the key findings from across the different food value chains studied and reflects on the implications of these findings. There are a total of eight nationally located studies with the findings from each one presented subsequently as a separate chapter in the report: Dairy cows to liquid milk in France, Britain and Germany; Beef cattle to steak in Britain and Germany; Farmed Salmon from Norway; Tomato to processed tomatoes in Northern Italy; and, Wheat into Bread in France.


3. The findings from the studies confirm that the nature of governance in value chains covers inter-firm relations but also includes private governance initiatives and public policy and regulatory interventions. The nature of each food value chain has its own particular features and characteristics more specific to that sector. There are important structural features in each value chain that set boundaries within which the dynamics of governance take place. The actors at key stages of each value chain may be in a better structural position than others, which can give them an advantage in the negotiations and bargaining over contracts. Stakeholders’ views on fairness are focused on price setting and the means by which pricing decisions are made. It was notable that the interviewees very rarely mentioned the types of unfair trading practices, as defined and laid out in the Directive on unfair trading practices in the agricultural and food supply chain. Rather, it was the subjective experience of price setting (and related volume agreements, for example) in their particular value chain and sector where concerns around fairness and transparency were most explicitly articulated.  There is subjectivity in the views of stakeholders over issues such as price negotiations that must be considered when assessing fairness in value chains. The need for industry, and more particularly for policy makers, is to find the most appropriate mechanisms and interventions (such as interbranch organizations, producer organizations, cooperatives, voluntary codes of practice, mandatory legislation) that will achieve fairer trading and working conditions, and greater transparency and information flow in food value chains. These interventions and mechanisms need to be suitable for each respective agricultural and horticultural sector as well for the agri-food industry as a whole. At both the sector level, and across all food value chains, the important structural features and their impacts on intra-chain bargaining must be taken into account.


David Barling and Jennifer Gresham (Eds.) (2019) Governance in European Food Value Chains. VALUMICS "Understanding Food Value Chains and Network Dynamics", funded by European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme GA No 727243. Deliverable: D5.1, University of Hertfordshire, UK, 237p.



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VALUMICS – Understanding food value chains and network dynamics 727243
European Commission