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Going organic seen as a way forward in Vanuatu

  • Going organic seen as a way forward in Vanuatu

    by Market Insider

    Wednesday, 03 Jul. 2013

    Vanuatu has started to convert its largest coconut plantations to organic, according to press reports. The move forms part of the Vanuatu Sustainable Agri-Business Initiative (VASABI) launched by the government in association with a large range of supporting institutions, including Australia Organic. At present, Vanuatu Coconut Oil is certified and many enterprises are working to achieve organic certification.

    Vanuatu producers are planning to sell coconut oil and copra meal (dried coconut kernel) to Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States of America. One of the leading organizations involved, African Pacific, projects annual production of 400 tons of organic virgin coconut oil and 1,000 tons of organic crude oil.

    While coconuts in Vanuatu are already produced without any application of synthetic fertilizers, not all producers have been certified organic to date. As a consequence, they have been unable to target the premium-priced organic market sector until now.

    Organic represents a new and exciting market opportunity for Vanuatu and its farmers. Currently, around 60% of the rural population of Vanuatu are involved in coconut production, with 85% of the country’s population involved in farming activities. The aim of the broader VASABI initiative is to achieve full organic certification in 2015, with coffee and cocoa plantations next in line to go organic followed by the livestock sector.

    For small island nations such as Vanuatu, converting the entire agricultural sector to organic production could offer major economic gains in terms of minimizing inputs costs, reducing certification costs and developing a unique brand identity; if the island can become synonymous with natural (organic) high-quality production, this could considerably enhance the capacity of agricultural producers to gain price premiums on overseas markets.

    However, the enormity of the task of converting the 14 main islands (out of 83) that make up Vanuatu to organic systems of agricultural production should not be underestimated; moves towards wholesale conversion to organic farming will require the sincere and comprehensive buy-in of all stakeholders (both national and international), since the enforcement of organic standards will be critical to the success of such an ambitious programme.

    For effective enforcement, community engagement will be critical: this is illustrated by recent developments in Fiji, where breaches of Fairtrade production requirements among sugar farmers supplying the Labasa Sugar Mill on Vanua Levu were reported from within the community itself, leading to an investigation and corrective measures by Fairtrade International.

    Source: CTA


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