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Revenues of Romania's four local food hubs registered an increase of 150 percent over April - August 2020, ie during the peak months of the pandemic, reveals the report "Food Hub: an alternative model for the development of Romanian small and medium-sized farms" by the Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE) and released on Thursday in an online debate.

The number of individual food hub customers has tripled in three years from 5,992 in 2018 to 17,720 in 2020. Also, the number of food hub producer members advanced 60 percent from 213 in 2018 to 342 in July 2021, in the context where the producers of this type of association do not compete with each other.

According to the report, after four years of operation, the four existing food hubs are currently delivering 4,000 different products and have seen an increase in turnover of up to 650,000 US dollars, reads a CRPE statement.

The Food Hub pilot program was launched in 2017 by the Romanian-American Foundation (RAF), with the aim of stimulating and supporting the competitiveness and development prospects of small and medium-sized farmers through a complementary approach to association through agricultural cooperatives.

The program included two rounds of financing (2017 - 2019 and 2020 - 2022), which have so far totaled more than 1.6 million dollars and four foundations that received support to set up and operate five food hubs in five areas of the country: Nod Verde - supported by the Civitas Foundation, in Cluj-Napoca; Cumsecade/Helyenvalo - supported by the Civitas Foundation, in Odorheiu Secuiesc; Nord Natural - supported by the Open Fields Foundation, in Campulung Moldovenesc; Roade si Merinde (Produce and Foodstuff) - supported by the Mediation and Community Security Center in Iasi; Merindar (Food Pantry) - supported by World Vision Romania in Crit (this project only promotes and markets honey and was part of the program until 2020).

The food hubs sell both fresh and processed products: fruits and vegetables, dairy, honey, meat and charcuterie products, bakery, herbs, oils, wine.

CRPE executive director Alexandra Popa's recommendation is for the future National Strategic Plan to include mechanisms to support the establishment of another 15 food hub centers.

Attending the online event, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Adrian Chesnoiu pointed out that local products do not reach the local consumer because the commercial networks hold over 80 percent of the food market.

The Romanian Center for European Policies was established in 2009 by a group of experts, with the aim of supporting Romania's role in Europe by providing public policy expertise. CRPE's mission is to promote Romania as a coherent and influential actor in setting the public agenda and in formulating policies as part of the EU, and continue Romania's Europeanization process through good governance, expertise and informed public debates.

The Romanian-American Foundation's mission is to promote and consolidate the conditions required by a sustainable market economy and a democratic society, which will ensure access to opportunities for all segments of Romania's population. AGERPRES (RO - author: George Coman, editor: Oana Tilica; EN - author: Simona Klodnischi, editor: Simona Iacob)

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