AgriLink The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: direct marketing. - AgriLink

The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: direct marketing.

Romania, Giurgiu
Region

Giurgiu County, Romania, is an agricultural district neighbouring Romania’s capital city. Fertile soils and relatively abundant water resources have created favourable conditions for crop production in this region for hundreds of years.

Almost 2% of the UAA in Giurgiu County is occupied by vegetable production with open field vegetables (including potatoes), protected cropping and large kitchen gardens. Plastic greenhouses are particularly common in some villages and with good management have very high production potential.

Region map

The district of Giurgiu was selected as a focus region for the direct marketing arrangements because of its proximity to the country’s largest consumer market of Romania, namely Bucharest, which has been developing an upper middle class of consumers, with busy lifestyles, but interested in acquiring healthy local foods through convenient alternative marketing channels (online orders or specialized food boutiques).

 

Study focus

The study focus on the flow of knowledge to and between farmers that are both active in – and considering entry to – the full range  of new fruit and vegetable marketing initiatives that exist in  Giurgiu County.

Particular attention is paid to distinguishing the knowledge systems of the pioneers and early adopters from the non-adopters. For direct marketing arrangements between farmers in Giurgiu and consumers in Bucharest, considering the fact that many of the adopters interviewed pioneered new markets, they rely primarily on advice from business contacts (including customers, supermarkets, contractors or traders). Nevertheless, farmers balance their commercial advice with advice from family members, or other members of the community and, occasionally, from the public advisors of the agricultural directorate in Giurgiu (DAJ).

Nevertheless, as mentioned in previous sections, few farmers have access to these commercial networks, and therefore a significant part of the farmers interviewed in Giurgiu were largely non-adopters (43%, n=16). Furthermore, the AKIS interviews revealed that public advisory services offer no services to help farmers to adopt the innovation.

Direct marketing either online, through supermarket contracts or physical farm shops requires considerable knowledge about marketing, website ranking, quality standards, but also resources to build shops or be able to deliver products to consumers and supermarkets in the conditions warranted by them. Due to this, the great majority of adopters were able to adopt the innovation and be successful because they benefitted from the right personal knowledge with various types of expertise (marketing, IT, design, agronomical, gastronomy), networks and resources that allowed their new business channels to be profitable.

Full report is available here.

Partner and responsible person contact

Highclere Consulting (HCC)

Highclere Consulting (HCC) has a vast experience in working with the farmers and rural areas. Especially in the Giurgiu region HCC implemented already one other project on small farmers (SALSA) since 2016 and was implementing in this region also an AgriLink Living Lab.

Lessons learned
1 A weak and fragmented nature of the advisory system
The advisory landscapes reflect an insufficient and not fully functional public advisory services system, especially for addressing the specific needs of small farmers in accessing the market.
2 National Agency for Agricultural Consulting (ANCA): understaffed and have low resource endowments
The National Agency for Agricultural Consulting (ANCA) since 2010 has been re-organized and restructured, and has been missing fulfilling a meaningful role for Romania's over 3 million farmers. Currently, they are understaffed and have low resource endowments, particularly in what concerns their ability to travel to the field and be present in the proximity of the farmers. As their priority mandate is supporting the implementation of the RDP or running information companies for direct payments, the DAJ offices are also limited in their ability to be responsive to farmers’ actual needs in meeting the market’s demands.
3 Source of information for farmers: informal networks
The single most important source of information for farmers across Romania is that provided through their trusted informal networks of family members and neighbour farmers.
4 Tremendous opportunity for growth
The overall advisory services system's image for direct marketing in Giurgiu shows that there is tremendous opportunity for growth for both public and private advisory systems to develop new services, supporting also the less connected farmers with up-taking innovative approaches. These services would also be important in offering independent and unbiased information to farmers regarding the benefits, weaknesses and investment needed in order to connect better to growing urban consumer markets in big cities such as Bucharest.
5 Innovation is still possible
This case study shows that innovation is still possible in spite of these challenges, their narratives show that this has largely been due to the determination, solidarity and resilience of the farmers rather than to an enabling and diverse advisory environment, responsive to their full range of informational and innovation needs.

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