«Proceedings of the 6thInternational European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks, organized by the International Center for Food ...»
However, the success of the organic apple supply chain is not only due to the high relationship quality. Part of the success is caused by the product ‘apple’ itself. Apples are a permanent crop requiring specific production technology and know-how which imply path dependency. This fosters the willingness to collaborate and the commitment of growers.
Further, apples can relative easily be stored so that they are available (almost) year round.
Apples face a specific perception of consumers since they have a long consumption tradition.
Consumers, at least partly, have a good knowledge of varieties and a pronounced preference for local and domestic produce. The term ‘Kulturgut’ (cultural good) may help to understand the particular relationship between consumers and the ‘apple’.
Due to the specific product attributes of the ‘apple’, the results are not unrestrictedly transferable to other product markets. However, there is evidence of the central relevance of high relationship quality and trustful collaboration between producers and traders. Joint objective of German producers and wholesalers also in other product markets should be the provision of the German market with high quality German produce – instead of pursuing individual goals. Quality and taste must be the focus of production and trade instead of price considerations. Criteria for the differentiation in the market with regard to foreign competitors could be specific varieties, particularly suitable for the taste of German consumers.
However, the achievement of high relationship quality depends largely on the persons involved and their integrative abilities. In the apple chain, actors are successful by acting according the phrase ‘We’re all in the same boat’.
Further research should concentrate on improving the data basis regarding imports to the German market. Regular data collection from importers would help to better assess the competitiveness of German apple growers over time. In this research the qualitative research approach of expert interviews with 18 actors had been applied. Although this number is large enough to render reliable results in qualitative research, additional research on this topic may help to even better understand the specific strengths of the organic apple supply chain.
Acknowledgements The author gratefully acknowledges the funding of the research project ‘Ausländisches Angebot an ökologischen Äpfeln: Bedeutung für deutsche Apfelerzeuger’ (Foreign supply of organic apples: relevance for German apple producers) by the ‘Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft’. The work has been done at the Department of Agricultural and Food Marketing of the University Kassel.
Therefore, my thanks also go to Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hamm for his support in the realisation of the research project.
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