Over the last few years, organic food has developed from a niche-market product to being widely available, as an increasing focus on a healthy lifestyle has increased consumer demand for healthy, organic and fairly traded food. The view that sustainable production is key for a greener economy, improved human well-being, as well as the reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcities has gained momentum all over the world. Acknowledging this demand for sustainably produced food, the Dutch fruit & vegetable distributor Eosta has introduced the ‘Trace and Tell’ system ‘Nature & More’, which offers organic produce from all over the world.
Eosta is an international distributor of fresh organic fruits, vegetables and juices that works with over a thousand growers on six continents. All their products are organic and often fair-trade certified, GMO-free, pesticide free and free from artificial fertilizers. Organic vegetables and fruits are sourced from growers on six continents. Eosta has been active in Africa since its establishment almost 25 years ago. Starting in Egypt and Morocco - and soon after that South-Africa - Eosta now considers West Africa and East Africa very promising regions for future business development. In Africa many of the small-holders are organic, often by default. Especially Ghana is considered to be of enormous potential. Eosta expects to source 5% of their products from Ghana by 2016, up from less than 1% now.
With its Nature & More system, Eosta introduces consumers to the farmers that have grown the products they are buying and gives them a peak into the life, motivations and working methods of the farmers. It is an unique system that gives a human touch to an industry that traditionally consists of large-scale anonymous producers. Every Nature & More product leaving the Eosta packaging and distribution centre in Waddinxveen is marked with a sticker with a three-digit grower code. When this code is inserted on the website, the consumer can trace the mango or avocado he bought all the way back to the farm where it was grown.
On the site, the farmer tells about his methods on different ecological principles: the Sustainability flower. Mr. Volkert Engelsman, Managing Director of Eosta, emphasizes that the continuous growth of the world population and the consequences of non-sustainable agricultural production put a high pressure on the environment’s production capacity. “If we want to ensure sufficient food production for the world population, it is important to understand that 80% of produce is coming from smallholders. With a long-term perspective in mind, fruit and vegetables should be produced within a stable agro-ecological system which preserves the environment’s capacity to maintain – and even increase - agricultural production.”
According to Mr. Henk Zoutewelle, Product Manager for Eosta, the African continent is considered to be of high sourcing potential for organic fruit and vegetables. Usage of artificial pesticides and fertilizers and high-tech input supplies like genetically altered seeds is rather limited, mostly due to financial limitations rather than considerations on sustainability. As average income is rising, many African farmers currently stand at a crossroads, enabling them to choose which path to travel: organic production which earns a premium but can have lower production-rates in the short term or ‘normal’ production, which ensures larger production in the short term but has negative environmental consequences and does not pay a premium. By assisting farmers to start up or switch to organic production, long-term production capacity can be ensured. This not only brings environmental advantages, organic production can also be a commercial success-formula.
By creating a platform for organic farmers, Eosta enables its growers to cash in the additional value organic products have in the food-market. At the same time Eosta integrates a system of sustainable production. Companion-cropping, for example, ensures sufficient food supply to the local market as well as premium earnings for local farmers. Sustainable production and good soil management can furthermore prevent exhaustion of the land and enables constant production over a longer period of time than many high-intensity agricultural practices would.
As such, one can hardly disagree with Eosta’s belief that converting Africa to organic production could be a useful tool in ensuring Africa’s capacity to feed the world of tomorrow. Its Nature & More system highlights this potential. The unique ‘Trace and Tell’ lays the focus on the sustainable efforts of African farmers, while at the same time demonstrating the commercial potential for Eosta itself, as increasing social and health awareness fuels a need for consumers to know where their products come from. With Nature & More Eosta bridges the gap between producers and consumers.