Short supply chains and Protected Designations of Origin: the case of Parmigiano Reggiano (Italy)

Maria Cecilia Mancini & Filippo Arfini (2018)

AGER:  Journal of Depopulation and Rural Development Studies, 25

Abstract: Short food supply chains are considered a tool for promoting the local economy and meeting consumers’ quality requirements. This paper analyses the case of a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product that is marketed both world-wide and through a short supply chain (Parmigiano Reggiano). The case study shows that short chains can be an important trade channel for consumers, producers and rural development. Parmigiano Reggiano dairy factories with direct sales are more resilient than those without direct sales. The study also shows that the successful implementation of a short supply chain requires efficient governance.

Excerpt (p. 4)

A specific feature of [short food supply chains] products is the level of quality and sustainability perceived by consumers. To develop a more inclusive view of how socially constructed criteria are coordinated in processes of food quality assessment by the consumer, many researchers have used convention theory (Boltanski and Thevenod 1991; Wilkinson 1997; Nygård and Storstad 1998; Kirwan 2006). In contrast with neo-classical theory which says that the price mechanism incorporates all the information inherent in a product, convention theory considers quality as an endogenous social construct which contributes to coordinating economic activity (Wilkinson 1997). More precisely, quality is also the result of formal rules (civic convention) or informal rules (domestic and opinion conventions). In civic conventions, there is collective commitment built on a recognized common interest and coordination to avoid conflicts (Ponte and Gibbon 2005). Domestic convention is based on direct relationships and personal trust enabled by physical and cultural proximity (Boltanski and Thevenot 1991). In opinion convention, product quality is judged with reference to the opinions of others (Marescotti 2000). These conventions contribute to the acknowledgement of local ties between actors which allow them to communicate and negotiate (Renard 2003).

Keywords: PDO, short food supply chain, resilience, rural development.

Link to the review (open access)