Organic food offers a good case to study the relationships of actors in the food chain, because of its added value based on production methods, the imbalance of power and the different value systems. The obvious problems identified call for solutions that include more efficient collaboration. This paper attempts to determine the presence of collaboration along the Finnish organic food chain, from the farmers to the multiple retailers. Collaboration is approached by focusing on communication and trust between the actors.
A case study with two cases.
Collaboration was found only in a few dyadic relationships, not at the chain level. Findings suggest that high frequency of communication is not an indication of collaboration, and is less important than the quality of communication in the creation of trust, the prerequisite for collaboration. Particularly the competence demonstrated as an exchange partner, seemed to hold the key for a trustful relationship. Neither the power imbalance nor the different value systems were insuperable obstacles for trustful and collaborative relationship.
Results encourage small organic suppliers to develop their relationships with mainstream retailers by improving their overall competence as exchange partners. To create trust and collaboration, the actors need to consider the influence of their action not only on the adjacent actors, but on the relationships within the whole organic food chain.
These findings contribute to existing knowledge concerning the nature of relationships along a food chain, and in particular, those of an organic food chain.
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