Short distribution channels

Short distribution channel means that there is zero or only one intermediary between the producer and the consumer. Such direct market chains have many economic, environmental and social benefits.

Thanks to the direct link between the producer and the consumer, all the money a consumer spends for the product goes to the producer. When the link between producer and consumer is not direct, each intermediary earns a percentage of the price of the product. As a consequence, the producer earns less.

In France as probably all over the world, farmers work a lot and earn so little that many have to go into debt to be able to maintain their farms. Indeed, the conditions on farms are so hard that more and more people, including the farmers’ children leave this job or are forced to choose intensive and polluting farming. The investors and owners of supermarkets, on the other hand, earn a lot. That’s why to develop and promote short distribution channels is so important for agriculture, particularly if we want to develop a high-quality and environmentally friendly agriculture. In addition, a direct link between producer and consumer generally makes a business more local and thus further reduces the carbon footprint.

Short distribution channels offer the opportunity for producers and consumers to meet each other. Personal relationship between producer and consumer can make farmer’s work nicer and more meaningful. It enables him or her to learn more about the needs of the consumer. Consuming becomes more meaningful, too, as consumers can learn how the producer works, what are his/hers needs and difficulties. This can help the consumer to behave more responsibly – for example not to waste food which needed so much work to produce – and to develop ties that would probably never form otherwise and, by this, build a little more cohesive society.


An example of a short distribution channel in France:

AMAP (Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne) is a meeting point between one or several producers and a group of consumers which allows a direct selling of the products. These products can be vegetables, fruits, eggs, cheese, meet, salt, nuts, honey… The producer and the consumers establish a contract for one or several seasons. In the contract, the producer and consumers decide together the quantity and the diversity of products which will be produced during the season, the agricultural methods (the producer doesn’t need to have an organic label but can still use responsible and eco-friendly methods of work which are defined together with the consumers) and the price of the food.

The price should allow the producer to cover production costs and to obtain a decent income on the one hand and to be affordable for consumers on the other hand. Consumers pay in advance the food which will be produced for one season. This allows the producer to buy seeds, tools etc. without getting into debt. In addition, by paying in advance, consumers accept part of the farmer’s risks including climate hazards and vegetable/animal diseases.

The price of such food is generally much lower that organic food in the supermarket. This is possible because there is no intermiedary between the producer and the consumers, less waste (non-perfect vegetables are sold, too), less or even no packaging and lower freight cost (because distribution is more local as the place of distribution can be the farm itself or nearest AMAP association house). In addition the farmer has more time to focus on agricultural work because he or she doesn’t need to promote and distribute the products to the consumers.

To make the food affordable to anyone AMAP organizes monthly or weekly payments for consumers who need it. Some people also get reduced price in exchange for helping to distribute the food to consumers. To lower the cost for farmers AMAP often works with volunteers, who take care for communication and coordination. They can also take charge of the transport of food from the farm to the distribution place.

Thanks to all of this, the consumers can have affordable high-quality food and the farmer a decent income.


Anna Vittet, EVS volunteer from France

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