Posted on

How sustainable is the banana industry?

Four of the Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) used in the banana industry were covered in an Intracen/UN survey – Fairtrade International, Organic, GlobalGAP and Rainforest Alliance/SAN – certifying banana production in 10 major banana-producing countries.

Four of the Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) used in the banana industry were covered in an Intracen/UN survey – Fairtrade International, Organic, GlobalGAP and Rainforest Alliance/SAN – certifying banana production in 10 major banana-producing countries.

GlobalGAP had the largest VSS-certified banana area in 2013, whereas the area with most growth (2008–2013) was seen for Fairtrade International. Fairtrade bananas are cultivated by 11,600 small-scale farmers and 10,100 plantation workers, who are represented in 123 producer organisations. Fairtrade International certified 33,000 hectares of bananas in 2013, meaning 5% of the global banana export area. More than 620,000 metric tons were produced. The countries with the largest areas were: the Dominican Republic (11,416 hectares), Ecuador (6,401 hectares), Peru (5,286 hectares), Colombia (4,644 hectares) and Ghana (1,367 hectares). Together, these five countries represented 88% of the total Fairtrade International banana area. This area has increased by almost 60% since 2008.Organic bananas represented almost 8% of global banana exports, with more than 48,000 hectares (estimated harvested area). An estimated 850,000 metric tons were produced in 2013.The Dominican Republic (22,000 hectares), Ecuador (10,400 hectares), the Philippines (6,000 hectares), Peru (5,500 hectares) and Mozambique (1,700 hectares) had the largest organic banana areas, together representing almost 95% of the total organic banana area. Since 2008, the organic banana area has increased by almost 18%. About half of these organic bananas are also Fairtrade.

Since 2002 the EurepGap certification was import by the major retailers. In 2014 more than 223,000 hectares of bananas were GlobalGAP-certified, meaning 31% of global banana exports. The largest areas were in Ecuador (64,089 hectares), Colombia (43,690 hectares), Costa Rica (28,397 hectares), Guatemala (25,871 hectares) and the Dominican Republic (14,896 hectares), taking up almost 84% of the total GLOBALGAP banana area, which has declined by 6% since 2012.

By choosing Rainforest Alliance Certified™ products, consumers can support environmental, social and economic sustainability. Rainforest Alliance/SAN certification covers more than 109,000 hectares of banana land. Almost 3 million metric tons of Rainforest Alliance/ SAN bananas were reported in 2014 on 1,600 farms, accounting for 15% of global banana export volume. Six countries represented 90% of the total Rainforest Alliance/SAN banana area: Costa Rica (22,475 hectares), Guatemala (26,126 hectares), Colombia (14,731 hectares), Honduras (9,560 hectares) and Panama (5,618 hectares). This area has increased by 28% since 2008. These different kinds of certifications identify which produce is organic, Fairtrade, etc. These allow major retailers to meet the demand for sustainable produce. The issue with this is that the retailers are not necessarily willing to pay a premium for it. The advantage, however, is that the growers/exporters gain access to retail stores in the EU. The table below shows that countries with a large area of certified land increased their market share over the last quarter – particularly when the produce carries a Fairtrade, Organic or Rainforest Alliance Certified logo. Unfortunately, there is no independent agency that verifies whether the claims carried by these products are true.



Posted on

Making sustainability more than a buzz word

Environmental experts say the expected growth in vegetable consumption offers opportunities to make the food chain more sustainable.

Sustainability is hot, with many companies showing an increasing interest in efforts to sustain the food chain. But the term is used so often it has become a container concept without a clear outline.

“Sustainability has not been defined,” says Gert Engelen of VECO, a Belgian-based organisation that creates an enabling environment for smallholder farmers, “it is an evolving concept.”

Marc Soumillion of Res Sense, an organisation integrating commitment, innovation and experience, listed six components of sustainability: interdependence, incorporation, innovation, insight, integration and integrity.

Speaking at the “Tomatoes, trends towards 2020″ conference in Antwerp in April, as was Engelen, he stressed that a balance in the three P’s (planet, people, profit) is key.

Both Engelen and Soumillion agree that the fresh produce sector has all the right starting points. “The sector is a very good sector for sustainability,” Engelen said. He thinks the expected growth in vegetable consumption offers more opportunities to make the food chain more sustainable.

Thanks to renewed interest in and enjoyment of good nutrition, “times have never been so favourable in food,” Soumillion said.

Yet there are hurdles to overcome. Engelen highlighted the awkward position of producers at the base of the chain and mentions them to be the weakest link in the chain. Unstable and low prices, job complexity and a heavy workload are factors keeping potential future farmers away from the job, among factors posing “a realistic risk for the future of the food supply,” he said.

Consumer benefits and communication

Many recommendations have been made on how to make the food chain future proof and ensure a balanced distribution of expenses and benefits, ranging from pre-competitive cooperation via transparency to level playing fields.

One thing, however, is very clear, the consumer should be the focal point. Since a more sustainable product usually involves a higher price, the consumer’s needs and wants should be responded to.

Soumillion said that meeting people’s three need states – rational, emotional and societal – compounds the benefits for brands and delivers real business value. But he warned against confusing the normalisation of processes and product quality with the adding of true value and meaningful consumer benefits.

“You have to translate what you do in consumer benefits,” Soumillion said.

Communication is very important to this process. Engelen emphasised that it is very hard for the consumer to know which product is sustainable. He sees a role for authorities and companies to inform consumers more effectively.

Moreover, he thinks that when more information is shared with consumers throughout the food chain, they will be more understanding, which would be a useful step towards a more sustainable food chain.


Background Image of rucola courtesy of KaboomPics

Posted on

New green category in ‘Mercabarna Innova’ awards

Companies interested in participating in the 2016 ‘Mercabarna Innova’ awards may submit their projects from May 2 until August 31.

A new category focused on ‘green’ products is being added to the ‘Mercabarna Innova’ awards this year.

As Barcelona’s wholesale food hub, Mercabarna is holding what will be the second edition of the awards as a way to recognise innovation by companies within the complex.

The first category in the ‘Mercabarna Innova’ awards recognises innovation in the creation of new products, formats, packaging and food safety. Projects related to new business models, mobility, sustainability and innovation in customer services will also be accepted. The winner in this category will receive a prize of €6,000 and the runner-up €4,000.

The winner of the new, second category focusing on the development of green products will receive €6,000.

Companies interested in participating may submit their projects from May 2 until August 31, Mercabarna said in a press release.

It said the awards will be judged by a prestigious panel comprised of renowned professionals and experts in the food industry who will take into account criteria such as originality, sustainability and the extent of implementation in the market.

The panel members are Enric Ezquerra, Chairman of the Catalan Association of Distributors and Supermarkets; Jaume Llopis, Professor at IESE Business School; Josep Maria Monfort, Director of Research and Technology, Food and Agriculture (IRTA); Lourdes Reig, Vice-rector of International Relations at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia; and Toni Valls, Director General of Alimentaria Exhibitions.

Read about last year’s winners here: Mercabarna rewards innovation with new awards

Posted on

Huelva diversifies and turns to sustainability

Sustainability is the watchword for Spanish farmers and traders, concerned about water foot - print and committed to deliver good qua - lity berries.

Huelva province, the biggest producer of fresh berries in Europe, is consolidating the crop diversification initiated last year and thereby ensuring the presence of Huelva berries across European markets for almost nine months a year.

The province of Huelva planted 9,658 ha of berries this season, reducing the strawberry area by 9% compared to 2014/2015, but still compensated by an increase of 25% in the rest of the berries, announced Freshuelva.

The growth in the planted area of raspberries, blue berries and blackberries is the result of Huelva’s commitment to diversifying its production, a movement that started strongly last season with farmers seeking new alternatives to meet consumer trends in Europe.

The strawberry plantation area is now estimated at 5,860 hectares (6,400 ha last season, -8.7%), while raspberries account for 1,815 hectares (1,560 ha last year, +16%), blackberries for 130 hectares (90 ha last season, +44%) and blueberries for 1953 hectares (1,470 ha last season, +33%), although a significant number of the blueberry orchards are young and will not produce at their full potential.

The ‘new’ berries are mainly being planted along the western Coast of Huelva, where surface water is available for irrigation, stressed Freshuelva.


This article appeared on page 95 of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

Posted on

How Switzerland’s Coop Leads the Way on Sustainability

Screenshot 2014-10-10 at 11


The number two Swiss retailer is ranked by independent agency oekom research AG as most committed chain in the world to sustainable development


Coop is the second biggest Swiss food retailer, with 35% of the market. It currently has 1,933 retail supermarkets in Switzerland and posted net sales of €14.9 billion in 2013, up by 1.7% on the previous year despite several waves of price cutting.


Coop has long been committed to sustainable development. “Sustainable development is a very important issue for Swiss consumers,” emphasized Raphaël Schilling, Coop’s head of Sustainable Development. “For Coop, it is essential to invest in this field in order to guarantee product availability in the long term”.


For fruit and vegetables, the group has identified four main sources of sustainability-related risk: working conditions at source, energy and CO2, water use, and pesticides.


On working conditions, Coop’s strategy for produce from developing countries is to expand FairTrade certification. Already 95% of its bananas and a large proportion of its avocados, pineapples and mangoes are FairTrade certified and the process is under way for papayas.


To reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint, Coop gives preference to regional, national and European products, in that order. It also limits the use of air freight as much as possible. For instance, white asparagus used to be imported from Peru by air and now travels by sea.


Read the full article online here on page 18 of issue 133 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine

author: VB

Posted on

Mazzoni, green engagement

BIO sostenibility MAZZONI

Mazzoni company is a leader in the agro-food industry and for over 60 years stands out on the Italian and foreign markets for the constant and perpetual analysis of the consumer needs that are more and more inclined to the consumption of “natural products”, in recent years. By the end the concept of sustainability is accompanying and will accompany more and more commercial strategies within Mazzoni group with the goal of always offering quality and healthy products,  cultivated on its territory and in suitable areas, while respecting and protecting the environment. Mazzoni has been able to capitalize on all these aspects aware of the best practices of energy conservation, proper waste management and the rational use of water. Dynamism and experience in this trade enabled a perfect combination of the concept of sustainability and business practices. “For those who do not share the crop experience and and are not used to visit Mazzoni warehouses and packing houses cannot perceive the huge investments in technology and human resources for the protection of sustainable agriculture, during the last 15 years” declares Sergio Trevisan import-export top manager. Nursery research managed by the company focused on fruit and vegetable species, no OGM, which require a low use of chemical interventions, thus reducing the environmental and the food chain impact. The farms within the Mazzoni group work in respect of the integrated production procedures which combine the best university knowledge and experimental experience of technical experts in the field who apply organic farming practices, whenever possible. Photovoltaic  systems were installed to produce clean energy for conditioning and refrigerating operations. Storage systems are the latest generation and in the cells is possible to create a controlled and/or dynamic atmosphere  which guarantee maximum conservation, food safety and shelf life of the products. Also, Mazzoni preserves the workers’rights through suitable, healthy and safe work environment with respect of the legislation on prevention and safety in the workplace.  MV

Posted on

IBRAF fulfill sustainable initiatives to preserve the world

BIO sustainabilty BRAZIL

The Brazilian farmers have put into place well organised initiatives to implement strict environmental measures for sustainable growth.  
Such measures include major reduction in the use of pesticides, as well as microbiological controls in processed food, such as “salmonella”. One of the companies associated with IBRAF, Caliman Agrícola S.A. is continuously looking at new initiatives to reduce the creation and emission of pollutants and works closely with the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Recyclable Natural Resources and with Universities in order to improve the quality of life of human beings and the environment.
Agrofruit Internacional do Brasil Ltda. (Global Fruit) is also focused on a treatment system for the industrial liquids, whose goal is to accurately control emission levels of pollutants. The company has launched a “zero waste” program to make the most of raw materials which are being recycled as organic fertilizer.
Conservation of water has become a key point of discussion among farmers as they are conscious that thanks to technology, they have increased yields and at the same time reduced water consumption. Some examples are Miranda Exp. e Imp. (Irmãos Molon Ltda.) which recycles rainwater, besides using the solid and liquid residual that the company initially produces.  Carbon emission is another hot subject within the IBRAF.  All solid waste from Predilecta Alimentos is used for animals, oxidising or lining agricultural feed. The production of waste water is treated by anaerobic ponds with biological webs and geo-membranes before being released into the St. Lawrence River. The solid fuel boiler has a cyclone filter to separate the solid material making the exhaust gases from the combustion process less toxic. The use of eucalyptus as a source of energy means that not only does it produce less carbon dioxide when burnt but also generates oxygen as it matures. Investment in technology has been considerable for IBRAF members, as most of them have submitted to the Global Gap, TESCO for fresh products and to HACCP/ APPC for processed food. Furthermore, they have had to learn to adapt to different rules and regulations for each of their new export markets.

Posted on

GLOBALG.A.P. always on the move to meet expectations

BIO globalGAP

The conference was part of the GLOBALG.A.P. Tour 2013, which already included many stops such as Spain and South Africa. The next stops will be in Miyazaki City, Japan, and Bucharest, Romania. Previously, only one conference a year was held, but these days a GLOBALG.A.P. tour is organized with stops all over the world. GLOBALG.A.P. chairman Guy Callebaut explains that the regional conferences are a good source of information. “They give us the chance to feel what’s going on in the industry.” The conference is also a preparation for the standard’s new version in 2015, so the opinion of those involved can be taken into account. The new standard concentrates on feasibility and realism.  
GLOBALG.A.P. is continuously on the move to meet its goal: to adapt to the customers’ changing expectations and demands. Guy Callebaut: “Sustainability and food safety are not static concepts.” This is why Kristian Moeller, GLOBALG.A.P.’s managing director, stresses the importance of the National Technical Working Groups. These working groups provide translations and interpretations of the standards (adaptations to specific law in a country), benchmarking and something very important: feedback. Kristian Moeller: “The National Technical Working Groups are the core of the organization. GLOBALG.A.P. is driven by the countries.” Kristian Moeller signals that nowadays the customers’ expectations also include the need to be informed. “GLOBALG.A.P. offers a network for reliable information and there is a story of good agricultural practice to tell.”
Add-on modules for tailored certification
Like all organizations, GLOBALG.A.P. is increasingly confronted with social issues. Sustainability is a large part of this. For primary production, this specifically means the responsible use of raw materials and means of production, animal welfare and socially responsible employment, for example. The chairman of this organization operating worldwide mentions the GRASP add-on module as one of the key focal points for 2014. The GLOBALG.A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice defines the minimum requirements for good social management in primary production. The GLOBALG.A.P.+ Add-On module allows tailored certification for specific needs. More add-on modules are in place and can be developed upon request. Kristian Moeller emphasizes the importance of the one-stop-audit. “One audit covers all aspects.”
Guy Callebaut is also clear on the scope: this is pre-farm gate. The standard focuses solely on primary production. For further links in the chain, other systems like IFS or BRC are in place. This evidently calls for a connection with these programs. Kristian Moeller: “It’s time to cooperate with other standards.” Not only is there communication with other standards; governmental organizations are also seeking cooperation. Kristian Moeller: “We are seeking private/public partnerships. For example, in Florida we have seen combined GLOBALG.A.P. and governmental audits.” The Dutch NVWA (food authority) is looking at systems for self-control for food safety because they lack the capacity to supervise all the producers. Hans Beuger of NVWA says transparency is very important in their considerations. The NVWA has determined that the standard must cover European regulations, and they are seeking a public/private partnership. Judging the standard could be a way to shape the supervision. MW