Production chains

Production chains

The Production Chain

The production chain refers to the various stages of production which a given ingredient undergoes; from the extraction of the raw material to the distribution of the finished goods to the consumer. The production chain can be divided into four different stages: the production stage, the processing stage, transportation and the distribution stage.

Production stage

This is the initial stage within the production chain in which the raw materials or ingredients are cultivated and harvested, typically on a farm or a plantation. These raw materials or ingredients will later be combined to form the final product which eventually reaches the consumer.

Processing stage

This stage usually involves several rounds of processing, including the initial processing of the raw material or ingredient that is being prepared for export. The preparation for export takes place on either the farm/plantation or in regional processing factories. Some ingredients are further processed in importing countries. The processing steps taken after importing of the raw material are often the ones that add the most value to a given product. In addition to preparing and combining ingredients to create products, the processing stage also includes the packaging of a given product.

Distribution stage

This stage includes the final transportation of a product from the processors to the distributors and sale of the end product to the consumer. The supplier sells a large volume of a product on to the retailer who then sells them to the consumer. You, too, are part of the production chain when buying a product at the supermarket, the canteen at the company you work for, or at your favourite restaurant.


Transportation during and between different points in the production chain is also an essential part of operations. Through the different stages, a product must travel through one or several transportation networks – from delivery vans and freight trains to ships and airplanes – to go from producer to final consumer. Transportation provides the links between every stage in the production chain and is an essential part of every chain.

Whole chain

There are also a number of issues that can affect all stages of the production chain.

Outside the chain

Outside the chain refers to issues that do not take place within the production chain but nevertheless influence the processes that take place within the chain. Some examples include unfair import tariffs and quotas or market distorting subsidies.

Each stage of the production chain involves its own set of circumstances and conditions which also vary per commodity. Fairfood International recognises the complexity of the production chain and the many varied issues that must be worked on and developed in a more just manner. At the same time, we also recognise the need to start working on the most pressing issues that exist in each chain. This is why from the wider scope of our sustainability agenda we have extracted what we believe to be the most pressing issues. This is to encourage food companies to focus on improving sustainability concerning these issues first. Each sector, therefore, has a different list of major chain issues with its corresponding link to the chain so we may best focus our efforts.