CTFC promotes improved value chains for wild food products to boost rural areas

The final conference of the PRIMA WildFood project was held in Solsona on 16-17 May. The project studied the value chains of Mediterranean wild food products to contribute to their development and promotion.

Photo: Neus Jordi Ballester

The growing interest in local products, their sustainability, and social value has increased the demand for these products for their use in gastronomy; this, added to the high degree of informality in the sector, the climate crisis and drought, drives the need to regulate the sector and promote the sustainable cultivation of these products, as the conclusions of the project state.

The culinary demand for wild food products, such as truffles, mushrooms, pine nuts, and aromatic plants is growing, but their value chains are underutilized. This is one of the main conclusions of the European project PRIMA WildFood, which the Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC) presented in Solsona (Catalonia, Spain).

The CTFC led this European project and hosted the final conference, under the motto “Eating the Wild: Improving the value-chain of Mediterranean Wild Food Products”. PRIMA WildFood, which has been developed from May 2020 to June 2023, focused on the study of the value chains of truffles, pine nuts, acorns, and aromatic plants in five Mediterranean countries: Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, and Tunisia. The project also implemented eight pilot projects to develop management and planning systems and risk control techniques to improve the quality of Mediterranean wild products and their sustainability.

Two of these pilot experiences were carried out in Catalonia: the feasibility study for the establishment in Tarragona of a mycological park to assess and control mushroom collection and guarantee its sustainability, and the quantification of pine nut production with sensors and drones in Girona.

During the final conference, hosted in Solsona by the CTFC, the leading partner of PRIMA WildFood, the participants of the project presented the results as well as the recommendations for political action in front of an audience of about sixty people. The programme of the conference can be read here, where all the presentations will be soon available.

Photo: Neus Jordi Ballester

The director of the PRIMA Foundation, Octavi Quintana, warned that climate change, as well as the drought and the increase in temperature associated with it, represent the greatest challenge for the Mediterranean today, and highlighted the importance of projects like PRIMA WildFood to work together on the complex and cross-sector solutions that are needed to deal with it.

Míriam Piqué, head of the CTFC’s Multifunctional Forest Management Program, emphasized the importance of wild edible products for their social and economic value in rural areas and Mediterranean forests. 65% of the surface of Catalonia is covered by forests, and mushrooms, pine nuts, and truffles represent very important products for these forests.

One of the main outcomes of the project was a policy brief about Mediterranean Wildfood Products, which is published in English and will be soon available in different languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan). This policy brief gathers important recommendations addressed to political decision-makers to harness the wild food value-chains.

One of them is urging for the regulation of the wildfood products and the promotion of the cultivation of these products to reduce the pressure on natural populations and avoid overexploitation. According to the policy brief and the project results, including some of these products within the agricultural sector could allow producers to opt for financial aid to develop these activities, meet demand and face the challenges of the climate crisis. Furthermore, the development of this sector can contribute to the creation of work in rural areas, the fight against depopulation, and the conservation of the natural resources of the Mediterranean forests.

In addition to improving the definition and regulation of this subsector, another of the policy recommendations proposed by the project researchers is the creation of a group certification system that helps local producers to position their goods and deal with products imported from outside Europe, of lower price and lower quality.

Among the results of the project, aside from the diagnosis of the value chains of edible wild products and the policy brief, an online training programme was prepared. It is a free course on wild food production and marketing and aimed mainly at university students, but open to anyone who is interested. The training is structured in several modules covering different aspects of the wild food sector, such as sustainable production, market trends and legislative initiatives. Participants may receive a certificate of achievement.

Other outcomes of PRIMA WildFood project were:

  • a database of the producers and actors linked to this subsector,
  • a virtual platform that gives visibility to the actors of the sector and facilitates contact between them,
  • protocols and guides to improve the quality, safety, and sustainability of the value chains of these products,
  • and a campaign to promote the consumption of these products.

The final PRIMA WildFood conference closed with a field visit to a truffle plantation. It is one of the wild forest products with the best gastronomic reception, but its production this year has particularly suffered from the consequences of the drought.

Download the programme

SOURCECTFC
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Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia
The mission of the Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC) is to contribute to the modernisation and competitiveness of forest sector, to promote rural development and to foster the sustainable management of the environment through excellence in research and transfer of knowledge and technology to society.