Can small farms and small food businesses in SALSA’s Southern European countries contribute to sustainable food security?
It is estimated that the total number of small farms in Southern European (SE) countries has decreased by 33% between 2010 and 2019. This loss is despite the widespread acknowledgement and appreciation of the important role that small farms play in supporting rural livelihoods, conserving biodiversity and maintaining traditional landscapes, rural traditions and cultural heritage. Can we really afford to lose any more?
Research was conducted in 10 regions (NUTS3 level) of 5 Southern European (SE) countries – France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. The number of small farms varies from country-to-country, but throughout Southern Europe they are consistently found to be strategic players in the regional food systems studied by the SALSA project.
Small farms in SE countries tend to be ‘exportoriented’. In other words, although they produce a large proportion of the studied food items at regional level, a great share of this production is often not consumed within the region but is exported outside of the region. Not surprisingly, small farms in Southern Europe are especially important as producers of fruits, vegetables and olive oil for the European market and they rely heavily upon formal cooperative structures to facilitate access to these markets.
Although small farms are mainly export-oriented, for some products the total production from small farms at regional level is so large and diverse that if it were to stay in the region it has the potential to totally supply the regional demand for food.
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