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Airfreight, organic products and Africa

Kasterine, Alexander and Bolwig, Simon (2008) Airfreight, organic products and Africa. Speech at: BioFach Congress 2008, NürnbergMesse, Nuremberg, Germany, February 21-24, 2008.

[thumbnail of kasterine-bolwig-airfreight.pdf] PDF - English


The organic sector is addressing climate change through a number of initiatives including label-ling, and in the case of one UK certifier in 2007, a proposed restriction on organic certification for products that are airfreighted to market. The International Trade Centre and the Danish Insti-tute for International Studies examined the economic impact in Africa of banning certification for airfreighted products.
The study based on interviews with UK importers, retailers, African exporters and organic smallholders showed that a ban could have serious local economic impact in some of the poor-est rural communities in the world. A minimum of 21,500 livelihoods would be compromised. Women, youth and small producers would be hardest hit and several exporter-producers would simply go out of business while others would revert to conventional production. The producers have on average a carbon footprint 1/50th of the average EU citizen.
The study also showed that in the vast majority of cases, freight by sea or road was simply not an alternative. Hence a ban would also hamper the development of the organic market in the UK as early counter seasonal produce would be removed from the shelves and exporters would hesitate to make future investments in organic production. Consumers would have no choice but to buy air freighted conventional products instead of organic ones.
The certifier proposed that certification be conditional upon ethical or fair trade certification and upon planning for 'reducing any remaining dependence on air freight'. This decision was taken without any serious involvement of developing-country organic operators who would be the ones mostly affected by it. Follow up analysis showed that this action was discriminatory as it ignored other energy intensive areas of the supply chain (e.g. distribution to retailers in the end market) and that EU farmers receive fuel subsidies. There were moreover a number of unre-solved issues related to ethical or fair trade certification that would prevent many operators from pursuing this option.
The example illustrates that the inclusion of climate change issues into organic standards needs very careful consideration in order not to produce effects that are socially unjust and/or envi-ronmentally harmful. It also shows the need for organic producers and exporters in developing countries to develop a much stronger voice in the end markets where organic standard setting takes place, including dialogue with private standard setters and the IFOAM EU group and lob-bying work in EU institutions. Finally, developing country operators need to continuously review and adapt their use of standards in addition to organic certification ('organic+') in response to changes in demand. Enhancing their capacities in these regards is the joint responsibility of the organic movements in the North and the South.

Summary translation

This presentation summarizes the results of the DIIS Study Economic Impact of a Ban on Imports of Air freighted Organic Products to the UK, available at http://www.diis.dk/graphics/Publications/WP2007/WP_2007-23_web.pdf

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Speech
Keywords:Organic farming, climate change, airfright, developing countries
Subjects: Values, standards and certification
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Research affiliation: International Organizations > International Trade Centre ITC
International Conferences > 2008: BioFach Congress
Denmark > Other organizations
Research funders: India
Related Links:http://www.diis.dk/graphics/Publications/WP2007/WP_2007-23_web.pdf, http://www.fibl.org/english/news/events/2008/climate_change.php
Start Date:1 February 2001
End Date:3 May 2005
Deposited By: Willer, Helga
ID Code:6024
Deposited On:28 Feb 2008
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:31
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed
Additional Publishing Information:Based on a study commissioned to DIIS by the International Trade Centre, Geneva, carried out by P. Gibbon, S. Bolwig, L. Riisgaard and N. Grunth (DIIS Working Paper 2007/23)

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