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This publication is sponsored by: ICCO and EPOPA, Authors: Freek Jan Koekoek, Marg Leijdens, Gerbert Rieks

The aim of this Agrodok is to provide smallholder farmers’ organisations and similar groups with the information that they need to decide whether organic export marketing activities might be right for them and what they need to do to become involved in these activities.

This guide describes the steps that have to be followed to prepare for entering the organic export market.

Click here to download the guide (pdf)


Chapter 1 –This chapter introduces some key issues that you need to be aware of before entering the organic export business.

Chapter 2 - The organic market:
In general, farmers’ organisations will initiate export activities when their members are producing products which have a potential on the organic export market. The first step to take is to assess the organic market, to find out if there is a demand for the product and to know what the quality and entry requirements are for that market.

Chapter 3 - Organic production and certification:
The farmers next need to explore if their farms and production methods are organically certifiable. Organic products are produced in an environmentally friendly way that follows organic standards and are externally certified. When working with larger groups of smallholders, an Internal Control Sys-tem has to be developed.

Chapter 4 - Feasibility and investments:
The initiative must assess whether its business strategy will be feasible. Better (‘premium’) prices can be expected on the organic market, but there are also higher costs (e.g. certification). The business can only be sustainable if it makes a profit.

Chapter 5 - Developing the chain:
An export business needs a chain of actors that links the producers with the consumers. Organic production is a long-term business and it is important to develop a value chain with committed actors, who will honour their responsibilities to sustain the chain and the certification process, which is the key to the organic market.

Chapter 6 - Marketing organic export:
Marketing involves promotion, finding a buyer who will pay an acceptable price and exporting the produce to a market where there is demand. Specific knowledge and skills are required to do this successfully.

Chapter 7 - Planning, evaluation and management:
Last, but not least, good management, including cycles of planning and evaluation, is a fundamental requirement for running a successful business. This chapter points out a few key management issues that are relevant to organic exports. It includes a check list on how to be successful in organic exports.

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Comment by Marg Leijdens on November 4, 2010 at 10:31am
This Agrodok on 'entering the organic export market' is focusing more on trade issues than on production. It does pay attention to costs and revenues for starting an export business, but we realize that it does not touch in detail the economic aspects of conversion to organic on farm-level. And, as you rightly mention, in some cases there might be a temporary reduction in production. Additional to that there are the costs for inspection and certification in the first year(s), which have to be covered while there is no premium price paid yet for the produce. In that view it is not easy for non-organized farmers to move into organic production for export by them selves. In the case of organised farmers moving into organic production, it is wise to involve an experted advisor. Included in the Agrodok is a section with useful addresses of organisatins that can help to provide information on conversion to organic production on farm-level. Nevertheless, I take your comment in account and in a revision of the Agrodok we can see to include it, although I would prefer to produce a separate Agrodok on conversion to Organic production on farm level. When we find a partner and financial support for that, it would be a valuable addition to the Agrdok on organic exports.
Comment by don jansen on October 6, 2010 at 4:09pm
This report does not discuss how to compare costs and revenues between organic and not-organic production; in many situations farmers that change from conventional farming to organic have reduced productivity and/or higher labour costs. Omitting attention for this comparison is in my opinion not fair to the farmers. I have met several coffee farmers that after conversion to organic found out that they made much less money and had to work harder. This specifically holds for full sun production systems and for farmers that have to get organic fertilizer from elsewhere. Please be fair to farmers and add a chapter about this in the guide.

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