Direct sales of fruits and vegetables are in full expansion in Brazil, influenced by new business formats, ranging from traditional markets and Internet sales. Even considering markets of growers, new strategies have arisen, such as the “one-price market”, in Curitiba (Paraná State). Growers have also been selling fruits and vegetables on amazon.com or through their own websites to promote e-commerce and delivery.
Advances do not strop there. Traditional and new growers have been planting vegetables and fruits, such as banana and orange, in urban areas. In many cases, urban growers are favored by municipal laws that grant these farmers discounts on the Municipal Real Estate Tax (IPTU, in Portuguese).
This trend is not only observed in Brazil. In Spain, for instance, the occurrence of urban vegetable gardens have already resulted in a specific website to rent pieces of land in cities. Recently, there has been a revival of urban farmers in the United States – the number has four-folded between 1994 and 2015, according to the USDA.
The boost came mainly from a trend to consume local products, in which the environmental appeal gains strength, because it is possible to bring together good quality and sustainable production, as logistic needs are reduced and losses are minimized. Besides, due to a scenario of lower purchase power of consumers and high production and trading costs in Brazil, direct sales can be an alternative to offer reasonable prices for both agents. By cutting out the middleman, the quality of the product may also be better as the storage time is shorter.
Most Cepea collaborators in the field of fruits and vegetables do not sell directly to consumers. The main reason for that is logistics, which is very expensive for growers to flow all their production door-to-door. Moreover, depending on the production scale, local consumption does not absorb all output. Direct sales also requires growers to expand the focus of their activity to commercialization.
To overcome these challenges, there are institutions that help bring family farmers closer to consumers in a certain region, called “consumption networks”. In Piracicaba (São Paulo State), Terra Mater is an example of these institutions that gives support to Guandu Network. The initiative reduces a major bottleneck of direct sales: logistics.
Another example of support from growers to consumers is CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This model maintains that the community (consumer group) has more functions than simply purchasing the product. It finances, takes risks and distributes the farmer’s production. Growers, in turn, are committed to delivering the product to the community through fresh-food baskets. Therefore, growers are focused on their core mission: food production. In Brazil, there are roughly 60 CSAs.
Although it accounts for a small market share and has several challenges to overcome, local production is on the rise and family farmers, mainly those who grow organic products, have a great alternative to flow their production.
Many studies indicate that direct sales, through the farmers’ market or rural tourism, if well elaborated, may bring what the market defines as “hedonic consumption”, where products are offered to consumers in places that cause emotions and bring back memories.