Chain and market research

Sustainable development of agri-food chains worldwide is now more important than ever. The current food production and distribution system creates bottlenecks: emissions of ammonia and nitrogen to soil and water, particulate matter, CO2, odour emissions, animal welfare problems, undesirable side effects of plant protection products, light nuisance, damage to biodiversity and soil quality, exploitation and lack of living income.

Making the system more sustainable is not easy. The dynamics of agri-food chains are complex. Some chains are becoming more international, while at the same time a shift to local chains is visible. Further concentration in the processing industry and retail is a visible trend in most countries.

International trade plays an important role in most chains. Many Dutch agricultural products are mainly sold on the European market, while the Netherlands itself also imports a lot. European processors buy raw materials on world markets, and more and more end products find their way from outside Europe to European consumers. Most farmers worldwide are directly or indirectly affected by price developments in international markets. At the same time, sustainability labels are emerging in the Netherlands and large parts of Europe as a way of making the non-statutory efforts visible to buyers, consumers and other stakeholders.

Improving the position of farmers is one of the goals of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Many farmers in the Netherlands and worldwide have a weak position in the chain. Increasingly stricter sustainability requirements, a relatively weak position of (small) farmers, and price pressure due to competition on local and global markets are putting pressure on profitability and thus providing further incentives for scaling up in agriculture.

Sustainability is a major challenge. Wageningen Economic Research investigates how agri-food chains can become economically, ecologically and socially more sustainable on the basis of market information, expert knowledge and state-of-the-art research methods. We look at the context and behaviour of companies in agri-food chains and focus on their economic, environmental and social performance, competitiveness, and true costs and fair prices.

True Costs

How can obstacles to sustainability due to a lack of transparency and pricing of negative effects be removed?

Fair Pricing

What determines whether a chain is perceived as fair by companies and consumers? How does the perceived fairness of agri-food chains affect chain performance?

Value Chain Analysis

Who adds what value in the chain and how do agri-food chains perform best? What behavioural incentives are there for companies in chains to improve sustainability?


What is the competitive strength of companies, industries, chains or countries compared to the competition in the market? How can economic, environmental and social performance of companies contribute to competitiveness?