Since 2010 the Office for Asia and the Pacific of FAO in Bangkok has been testing a pilot program of farmer direct marketing of organic produce to the workplace. The GRECOCOS program (for Green Commerce Community System) has set up direct marketing relationships between farmers' groups producing organic fresh produce and rice on the one hand, and a community of buyers on the other hand. In this pilot case the buyers' community was a workplace community. The project has recently been taken over by AFMA, an association wishing to enlarge the GRECOCOS program to other communities and producers and buyers in Thailand.
The GRECOCOS program uses three key elements to optimize the logistical aspects of direct food marketing:
The GRECOCOS coordinator is a non-profit organization. The coordinator's role is to identify the farmers' groups that are interested in setting up an alternative direct marketing outlet. In parallel, it identifies communities of buyers that are likely to buy fresh produce through the system. Finally, the GRECOCOS coordinator identifies, in partnership with the suppliers and customers, both location and time that are the most appropriate for the delivery of the produce to the community of buyers. The GRECOCOS coordinator also identifies a group coordinator.
The group coordinator is a member of the buyers' community. He or she holds responsibility for the receipt of cash corresponding to the order of each individual customer within the community up to the day before delivery. The group coordinator also signs off in the computer system the orders that have been effectively paid. Suppliers package the order of each individual buyer and deliver the entire community order to the group coordinator. Each individual buyer then collects his or her shopping from the group coordinator, who is in charge of reimbursements to buyers whose order could not be fulfilled. The group coordinator receives a small remuneration for his or her intermediary role with the community of buyers. This remuneration is set by the farmers' groups.
The GRECOCOS software enables the automatic and systematic management of the system's orders and invoices. The current system allows one delivery per week. Every week the producers' groups log into the Internet site where they enter the list of produce that is available for direct marketing to consumers. The software sends an email to all registered buyers giving them notice that a new order is possible. Each individual buyer-member uses the online site to select items for his or her shopping basket. Once payment of the order has been cleared by the group coordinator, the software sends a confirmation email to the buyer. The day before the delivery is scheduled the website blocks new orders; the community's order and its breakdown into individual orders that have been effectively paid are all sent automatically to the suppliers. They then have an evening and one night to harvest, package and deliver the produce on the next morning. When the group coordinator acknowledges the reception of the group order, the software sends an email out reminding all buyers to come collect their shopping from the group coordinator. The whole logistical process is illustrated here.
The benefits of the GRECOCOS program are:
Producers can diversify their marketing outlets; their margins are higher for the produce that is sold directly to consumers.
Buyers receive a basket of fresh produce that has been harvested on the day before, corresponding exactly to their order, and at a lower price than that found in local supermarkets because of the direct marketing mode.
The GRECOCOS system can help the coordinator develop direct marketing linkages in order to foster greater integration between producers and consumers on a given local territory.
GRECOCOS contributes to decreasing the number of food miles in the marketing chain because it optimizes the logistics of ordering and delivery within the community of buyers. It also helps reduce waste as each basket of produce corresponds exactly to the order paid by each individual consumer.
The GRECOCOS software and system are currently available free of charge to NGOs and other non-profit organizations interested in developing communities of buyers with direct food marketing linkages to farmers. Interested parties should contact AFMA.
Agro-economist – Governance and marketing chains
Centre for Studies and Strategic Foresight
French Ministry in charge of agriculture
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