The success of small organic banana farmers in Peru

Peru’s Superfood: the organic banana and its leadership in social responsibility

A few years ago I worked at the Delegation of the European Union in Peru. I did research in the mark of the Euro Eco Trade Program which aims to promote the exports of ecological products from Peru to the European Union. My research focused on Corporate Social Responsibility in five food chains in Peru, namely: banana, mango, quinoa, amaranth and chestnut. I found out that from all of these sectors the organic banana sector was the most successful in terms of social responsibility. On top of that Peru has become one of the greatest exporters of organic banana in the world in about 10 to 15 years! Nowadays the organic banana sector of Peru counts for more than 7,000 hectares, about 6,500 producers and more than 30,000 families benefiting through direct and indirect employment, and has recorded an average growth of 23% per year over the last 8 years. I was so proud! How did Peru achieve this?

It all started with a government program in 1998-1999 to promote the cultivation of organic bananas in the northern coastal regions of Peru: Piura and Tumbes. It was elaborated and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the regional government of Piura, with support of INIBAP (International Network for the Improvement of the Banana and Plantain) and with support of the exporting company Dole. Private companies were encouraged to export certified organic banana and invest in organic certification. Another important development was the introduction of the Fairtrade certification by the company Grupo Hualtaco (founded by the ONG Solidaridad and the Dutch importer Agrofair). This promoted the grouping of small banana farmers in associations, cooperatives and even banana centrals. In the long run, and with support of international organizations this led to more independence from exporting companies, and more income for the banana farmers.

The exports of organic and fairtrade bananas proved to be successful for several reasons. Firstly, Peru is not as competitive in the exports of conventional bananas as its Latin American neighbors. Secondly, demand for organic and fairtrade fresh produce has been growing, especially in the United States and Europe. Thirdly, Piura, and specifically Sullana -where 80% of the organic banana production is concentrated- has an excellent dry tropical climate for growth of the organic bananas. In Ecuador the bananas suffered from the Black Sigatoka fungus disease due to its humid climate. This makes organic cultivation difficult.

Unfortunately not everything is in favor of the organic banana sector of Peru as the country is vulnerable for the effects of climate change. Recently there were inundations across several regions of Peru caused by heavy rains. The organic banana sector has also been affected. So it is very important to keep focusing on sustainable practices and preventive measures to keep the organic banana sector a successful one.

Above this blog you can watch a short video/ rapportage of my visit to the banana plantations and my interviews with central actors in the banana sector, such as small farmers, companies and the local government. Above all I focussed on the role of the fairtrade and organic certifications in the success of the exports. More elaborate information can be found in my thesis CSR in the banana sector in Peru  and on  https://goingfairbananas.wordpress.com

Here below another (longer) video report:

 

And some pictures….

 

 

Second Business Roundtable Sustainable Food (2016)

In November 2016 I had the honor to lead the organization of the Second Edition of the Business Roundtable Sustainable Food from PERU in Amsterdam. The idea behind this event is to connect Dutch companies with Peruvian companies which sell sustainably produced foods. Peru is one of the greatest exportes in the world of several organic products such as organic bananas, organic coffee, cacao, and superfoods, and as such is able to position itself as a great exporter of sustainable food.

This event was a collaboration between the Trade Commission of Peru and the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI). In the Seminar we had presentations by Ernst & Young, Wageningen Universtiy, CBI, and representatives of Peruvian companies (Miguel Tang Tuesta of AMPA -Amazónicos por la Amazonía, Candy Morales of CPX PERU) and Dutch companies (Crescendo Organics).

This Business Event Sustainable Food Peru was a great success! Around 12 Peruvian companies  (especially natural ingredients) came to the Netherlands to join the second edition of the Seminar and Business Roundtable. Around 12 Dutch companies participated to talk business with them.

In the link you can find a short video of the event: Business Event Sustainable Food 2016

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First Business Roundtable Sustainable Food from Peru

THE FIRST BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE ON SUSTAINABLE FOOD FROM PERU in THE NETHERLANDS WAS A SUCCESS

With the aim of promoting sustainable food trade between Peru and the Netherlands, I initiated and lead the organization of the first Business Roundtable in sustainable food on Friday the 27th of November 2015. I was able to do this in my position as Head of Trade Section at the Trade Commission of Perú. In the organization of the event, we had the support and collaboration of PromPeru, PLACIEX, Solidaridad Andes, the Chamber of Commerce in Lima, ADEX and the Centre for Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries in the Netherlands (CBI).

 

The event took place in Amsterdam with the participation of 12 Peruvian exporters and 20 Dutch companies of mostly sustainable products. The main traded products were natural ingredients such as maca powder, quinoa powder, camu camu powder, chia, amaranth, corn, tara and cocoa. Other products were coffee, spices, dried and fresh fruit.

After an intense morning of negotiations, a panel consisting of Dutch and Peruvian experts, such as Yvette Faber (Solidaridad Europe), Jose Cubero (Fairtrasa Netherlands), Gaston Vizcarra (Candela Peru) and Maria del Pilar Alarcón (PromPeru),  sustainability in the foodsectors of Peru and the Netherlands were discussed.

Among the Dutch importers were Fairtrasa Netherlands (winner of the Latin America Trade Award), Eosta, Nature’s Pride and Verstegen.

Given the rapid growth in demand for sustainable products in the Dutch market, the entrepreneurs attending the event qualified the Business Round as a great initiative. Also because of the need to facilitate the connection between Peruvian suppliers and Dutch importers. Furhtermore this initiative contributed to the image of Peru as a reliable supplier of such products.

The Plan Vivo Seminar on “Insetting” at IIED

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Besides the international panel of climate change experts of the United Nations, US president Barack Obama recently confirmed the pressing threat of Climate Change. Droughts, melting ice, global warming, we as human species can no longer deny it is real and have to make changes in our lifestyles and ways of production to reduce greenhouse emissions. In december 2014 the COP20 (UN Climate Change Conference) will take place in Lima, Peru, a country which is quite vulnerable to climate change and where climate change adaptation programs have already been introduced in agriculture.

At this background, and as half Peruvian CSR consultant, I was excited to be able to attend the Plan Vivo Seminar on “Insetting within your value chain” at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London. A quick introduction on Plan Vivo: it is the international standard for agroforestry and reforestation (carbon) projects, where local communities and smallholder farmers are involved. In the projects not only carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, but also eco system benefits are provided against affordable prices for the farmers; Plan Vivo thus contributes to climate change mitigation.

During the Seminar, apart from discussing the concept of Insetting, several organizations and/or companies like Ecometrica, Climate Futures, Source Climate Change Coffee, Costain Group, Pur Projet, CIAT and Catholic Relief Services demonstrated their concrete experiences with Insetting. Insetting is the partnership or investment in an activity that reduces an emission (like reforestation) within the sphere of interest of the company. It is actually about the interconnectiveness between the eco-system and the business.

During the Seminar Plan Vivo also launched its user’s guide on Insetting. One attendee mentioned that although the manual is obviously very useful, many concepts belonging to the carbon economy, like Insetting and Offsetting, among others, are really for specialists, and that there should also be a manual for “idiots”.

Finally, a panel of experts discussed the opportunities and challenges of Insetting. Insetting provides an opportunity for the creation of better markets and better buyers as it entails the adaptation of values and includes the reduction of emissions, among others. The challenge is for each link in the value chain to collaborate in innovation and recognize its connection with the eco-system. Another challenge is to explain Insetting in simple terms.

An important conclusion mentioned at the Seminar is that with Insetting you have to prove that you can make a business out of it. For example “Source Climate Change Coffee” will not sell if it does not have great taste and quality. You have also got to get your marketing and communication right for buyers to understand your product or project. Furthermore, Insetting is not like a classic donor or aid relationship, which fails to integrate in business. It is actually affecting business decisions.

Finally, there was wide agreement that Insetting projects do not belong in a separate CSR departement of a company. Good to know that several companies are already applying Insetting without even knowing the concept.

Number of companies partnering with sustainable labels continues to grow

As a Dutch consultant for a Latin American foreign trade programme, it is my job to analyze the impact of policies and trends within the European Union on Latin American exports, especially the exports of sustainably produced goods and/or foods. As I have a great desire to spread consciousness about the positive developments going on in sustainable business between Europe and Latin America, I have created this blog.

Sustainable trade can nowadays be recognized by trade in products with labels that guarantee fair incomes, good working conditions and/or environmental friendly agricultural practices. Examples are the Fair Trade label, the UTZ Certified label, the organic label, the Rainforest Alliance label, the IFC label and so on. As a Dutch citizen I am very proud to say that the first Fair Trade label was created in 1986 in the Netherlands by the Max Havelaar foundation. Its first use was for coffee. Later on other products followed such as cacao and bananas.  Also the UTZ certified label was a Dutch invention. Many European citizens desire to be solidary with the small farmers producing their foods.

Although big companies in the eighties were hardly interested in using those type of labels, now more and more companies want to be associated with these labels to have a responsible, green image. For example an international company like Dole now also produces organic and Fair Trade bananas; the UTZ certified label, which is a very successful label for tea, coffee and cacao, managed to get big brands such as HEMA, Douwe Egberts and IKEA involved.

Ofcourse being genuinely sustainable, goes further then just having a certification, but to me it is a promising start which has really contributed to better working conditions, better incomes and more environmental friendly agricultural practices.

I am very excited about these developments and absolutely believe in its continuing success. As Leonardo di Caprio said during his Climate Change speech for the United Nations: “For the economy will die if our eco-system collapses”. Companies have no alternative than to go sustainable!