IFOAM EU Conference

Wednesday 07 December 2016

Our Supply Chain Project Manager Eileen Clark spoke at the Organic Processing Conference, on the theme of 'going beyond certification' at Organic Herb Trading; how we look to improve integrity and increase responsibility in our work.
Among the most fiercely debated topics at IFOAM EU's 4th conference for processors, was the issue of maintaining integrity in organic supply chains.  In Seville last month, Organic Herb Trading joined more than 140 people from 18 countries to discuss the future of organic food processing.  As part of a panel discussion titled 'Supply chain development: Improving integrity & increasing responsibility', I described how we work to go beyond certification.  We have developed an Ethical Sourcing policy, and a comprehensive product testing schedule; we visit our key suppliers regularly, and build trusting relationships with them.

I'd been asked to focus on a case study, so I described the partnership we have with our supplier of Marigolds - Calendula - in Egypt.  Through our testing we'd identified that Marigolds can be particularly vulnerable to contamination from the pesticides present in the environment from conventional farming, so the main aim has been to reduce the level of residue.  At the same time we've co-operated on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), such as hygiene, shade-drying, good traceability, and improved storage conditions.  This can have huge impact on microbiological load and on product quality.

It's taken significant investment, beginning with a commitment in advance to buy their crop, and then looking at new infrastructure and equipment: an area shaded by nets with new drying racks, new sacks and gloves to avoid cross-contamination, and drilling a bore hole for clean irrigation water.

In year one we've seen great progress against our targets, and the colour of the dried Marigold petals we received was stunning.  Everything comes down to the human element, as our agent in Egypt highlighted:

The farmers showed major transformation and they became well aware of the target product. They showed how they are willing to give more to this project which made me feel happy and grateful that I helped in changing organic farming concept [for] these farmers.” - Haitham

Since the conference more training has been taking place, and our next crop will be grown on an area of land in the desert which has never been farmed before.  There's a lot to do, but we are encouraged by the commitment of our Egyptian partners.
The reality is that increased responsibility and improved integrity are a necessity in the organic world - certifiers do not make guarantees, so a certificate is not enough. And we do see a business case for this way of working: it has attracted the leading organic brands to working with us, almost as a side-effect. Our Founder Director Mike Brook sought to put organic and fair trade principles into practice, and they are embedded in the foundations of the company. The beneficial by-products are quality and human connection..