This paper focuses on the notion of localised agricultural and agro-food system as unit of analysis (LAFS). LAFSs appear to be as quite resilient and dynamic systems. As we will see, the analysis of exports in the last years can provide enough evidence of their strong resilience and capability to respond to economic crisis. This dynamics does not seem understandable by only using either classical variables (size of farm holdings, intensity of capital investment, human capital, rate of technological progress, etc.) or geographical factors (soil fertility, irrigation, plain versus mountain location, etc.). Organisation is a key variable to explain their diverse economic performances. Between the market and the hierarchic structure there are so many possible types of organisational modes, which strictly depend from the strategies set up by economic agents. The analysis provides evidence of diffused dynamism of these systems, both in terms of demographic characteristics, labour productivity and exports in international markets. Relevant differences among these local systems can be explained by geographical location (especially between North and South Italy) and infrastructural endowments. But relevant differences, according to recent studies on governance of rural areas, are also as far as cooperation and integration variables are concerned. To explore the nature of these variables, a parallel survey was implemented in 20 Italian areas to identify and reconstruct the institutional maps of the food chain supply (farming system, food industry, type of distribution and market channels), the main actors working in it and the main forms of vertical and horizontal integration/cooperation. This allowed to understand the structure of the food chain supply and which kind of governance is characterising agriculture and agro-food sector in these rural areas. The survey allows conceptualising four possible modes of rural integration/cooperation, depending from the organisation that has been set up within the single LAFS: 1) LAFSs with lack of governance; 2) LAFSs with contractual arrangements dominated by the processing industry and/or by the large-scale retail; 3) LAFSs with contractual arrangements involving effective cooperative structures and/or producers organisations; d) LAFSs where Consortia of cooperatives and/or producers Organisations were able to bring in innovative forms in marketing phase.


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