Organic Business Guide/Foreword

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What does organic mean for you? This question makes most people think, triggers emotions, and sparks the imagination. Seeing products branded as organic, the consumer expects a high level of ethics and integrity. It is clear for most consumers that organic may cost an extra price. At the same time it is also clear that the claims are expected to be true. Products ought to be of high quality, healthy and tasty; moreover, provisions should be made for animal welfare, the protection of biodiversity and a decent living for smallholders.

Organic developed into an internationally known and recognized philosophy of production and trade that is based on the organic principles of ecology, health, fairness and care, as articulated by IFOAM. Producers and consumers alike want sustainable systems in place that provide real solutions to global challenges such as hunger, loss of biodiversity, soil depletion and climate change. This only works if all stakeholders along the value chain are fairly treated and able to be competitive.

Smallholder farmers in low and middle income countries are at the core of IFOAM's attention. While they are the most important source for tropical organic products, they are also the group most vulnerable to poverty and malnutrition due to unsustainable practices. Organic is an opportunity for them. However, opportunities may fail if they are not properly managed and if they cannot be aligned with demand. Setting up an organic business is ambitious and requires skills. On the other hand, organic production is a successful model for millions of smallholders, who, taken together, are responsible for billions of dollars of consumer turnover around the world.

The recommendations and case studies in this guide are built upon a wealth of practical experience and in-depth research, and came out of a broad participation process. We are grateful to all those who committed to passing on their knowledge and hope to encourage and assist all those who strive for improvement or even dare to venture into organic businesses with smallholders in low and middle income countries.

We wish you good luck and prosperity!

Organically Yours,

Markus Arbenz
Executive Director, IFOAM