Name of organisation
Supporting and protecting the farmers’ market network in Romania
Type of organisation
National public network
“short food supply chains”, “civic food networks” farmers markets, ‘accessibility’ ‘direct sales’
What is the farmers’ market network in Romania?
Like many countries in Eastern Europe, Romania has a very strong, decentralised network of local farmers’ markets. There are more than 4,000 farmers’ markets in this network, which are funded by municipalities and local authorities and open from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week.
Most of the 7 million peasant farmers in Romania sell their produce at this kind of market, not least because stalls are very affordable and the markets are everywhere, reducing travel time and costs for farmers.
Food chains are kept local, with minimal transport, processing and packaging, meaning as few intermediaries as possible are involved. This means that farmers can earn a decent living whilst keeping prices low enough to be accessible for all consumers, particularly for low-income groups who in other countries can often not afford fresh, locally grown produce.
Which actors are using and defending farmers’ market network?
Eco Ruralis is a Romanian organisation of peasant farmers whose members rely on this network of markets to be able to sell their produce across the country. Farmers that have stalls on the markets will cooperate and work together, sharing spots and/or alternating with other families, and this is facilitated by the vast number of markets, their frequent opening hours, and the affordability of stalls.
As an organisation, part of Eco Ruralis’ work is defending and raising awareness on the importance of this network of public markets. They have been working with policy makers at a national level to try and safeguard these public networks from the threats of privatisation and the harmful actions of large-scale industry actors like supermarkets. They also work on building alliances and working with groups of academics and NGOs to extend their capacity at a national level.
This work is also transposed by Eco Ruralis to the European level, for example through efforts to develop the National Strategic plans of the CAP. Eco Ruralis has long since demanded that measures to protect small-scale farmers, such as policies and tools to support local markets, be included in the CAP.
What are the main challenges for the network of farmers’ markets?
The lack of support for these public markets (and for small-scale farmers in general) is a huge barrier. In Eastern Europe, supermarkets receive public money from European banks and financial institutions to support the liberalisation of the market in Eastern Europe.
This means that the public famers’ markets – which ensure healthy food for consumers and fair prices for farmers – are having to increasingly compete with private, profit-driven interests. In some cases, this translates into the markets themselves being privatised, and prices for stalls being raised , thereby excluding peasant-farmers from these markets and instead, favouring large-scale producers who can afford a stall.
In other cases, it means supermarkets are being opened within or around these market spaces, using unfair competition practices and marketing approaches to drive peasant farmers out of market spaces. During the pandemic, these supermarkets were allowed to continue to open for business without restrictions, while the public farmers’ markets were closed.
What are the priorities for Eco Ruralis on the farmers’ markets?
Eco Ruralis are pushing for public authorities to invest in public farmers’ markets and protect them at the national level. This kind of network of markets disappeared in Western Europe with the growth of liberal markets and it is essential for small-scale farmers that this does not also happen in Eastern Europe.
Eco Ruralis wants the privatisation of these markets to stop and for policies to be put in place that prioritise and protect the public markets, for example banning practices or businesses that might negatively affect local markets in the vicinity.
This is difficult work, particularly considering recent changes of government which can require starting from scratch, so having a strong network of allies and academics is essential to maintain the work.
As well as pushing for the right to access to market, Eco Ruralis see it as a priority to press for policies to stop food price speculation and to ensure fairer food and safety rules for peasant farmers, so they are on a more equal footing with other, larger producers.