Farm diversification as a potential success factor for small-scale farmers constrained by COVID-related lockdown. Contributions from a survey conducted in four European countries during the first wave of COVID-19

PLoS One. 2021 May 21;16(5):e0251715. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251715. eCollection 2021.


This paper explores to what extent product and marketing channel diversification contributed to the economic success of small-scale agricultural producers involved in short food supply chains after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey was conducted between April and July 2020 in four countries of the European Union-Estonia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania,-resulting in a relatively large sample of farmers (N = 421). The analysis was built on a semi-nonparametric approach. Approximately 19 percent of small-scale producers were able to increase sales during the first wave of the pandemic, although country-level variation was significant. Fruits and vegetables were by far the most popular products. The importance of specific channels varied across countries, but farm gate sales were among the most important marketing channels both before and during the first wave. The importance of channels that were based on digital resources and home delivery increased. Our evidence indicates that diversification was a strategy that paid off, both in terms of marketing channels and different product categories. However, the impact appears to be nonlinear; the initial advantage generated by diversification rapidly tapered off, either temporarily (in the case of products), or permanently (in the case of marketing channels). Later research may clarify whether these findings are generalizable in other socio-economic contexts, as well as in a non-COVID situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data
  • COVID-19 / economics
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Europe
  • Farmers / psychology
  • Humans
  • Models, Economic*
  • Quarantine / economics*
  • Quarantine / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grant support

This study was supported by funds from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (UIDB/04007/2020). This study was also supported by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Fund in the form of grants [IF (130485), Z. Bakucs (135387), Z. Benedek (135460)] and by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic, Program ZEMĚ in the form of funds to LC (QK1920398).