Organic And Fair-Trade Practices Generate Sustainable GrowthBy Gabriela Mastache | Wed, 06/03/2020 - 18:31
A business model focused on organic and healthy products that also generates a fair income and improves the lives of rural workers could be a solution for a number of social hardships, says Luis Enrique Castañón, Director General of Miel Orgánica Bioflora. “When we created Miel Orgánica Bioflora, the most important line of action was to create a sustainable project that involved the economic, social, environmental, health and cultural aspects.”
Created in 1996 in the state of Morelos, Miel Orgánica Bioflora is a social cooperative comprised of small and low-resource beekeepers from across the country that specialize in producing organic honey, with over 95 percent of the honey produced destined for the export market, according to Castañón.
In a country where according to SADER (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) around 27 percent of workers in the primary sector earn less or equal to one minimum daily wage, the creation of a successful business model that relies on small and micro producers and provides them with fair earnings for their work, is an essential need. Castañón says the work that the cooperative has done is proof that the agricultural sector is capable delivering sustainable and profitable business models that generate a positive impact on local communities.
“When the project started, rural communities were experiencing historic migration levels to the US, families were split apart and there were no jobs available locally. The cooperative model we have implemented has ensured that all producers perceive the benefits of their work, and as a result in 2003, we marked the first year of zero migration to the US from communities participating with us,” says Castañón.
With a yearly production of 1,350 tons of organic and certified fair-trade honey, Miel Orgánica Bioflora has worked intensively to promote the origin of the honey it sells. “Depending on its floral origin, honey has a different taste, smell and consistency. Honey from an orange blossom is different than that from a wild sunflower or from the mesquite tree,” says Castañón. Moreover, the cooperative follows strict production standards to ensure its honey complies with all the requisite safety and innocuity standards. “The norm for organic products forces us to have our production at least 6km away from any possible source of contamination. This entails significant effort and cost in production and delivery of the product to the consumer.”
Miel Orgánica Bioflora’s first client was from Italy and the cooperative has made significant inroads in diversifying its destinations. “We export honey to around 10 countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and France. We also send product to the US, Canada and Japan, and are focusing on new markets, such as Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.”
“The logistics of shipping overseas is complicated. Honey has to be concentrated in a certified production plant where analysis are made and samples are shipped to the clients. It is indispensable to comply with international standards and follow strict procedures until the produce reaches its final destination. It is very important to assure the satisfaction of the client in each commercial movement,” says Castañón.
Although the company is already a known player in the international market, Castañón says that the cooperative now wants to focus on the needs of the national market. “Each Mexican eats between 50 and 60kg of sweeteners per year, which reinforces the diabetes problematic. On the contrary, honey is a complete food, with many nutrients and contributes to the health of the whole planet.” With a yearly production of 60,000 tons of honey per year in the country and a 129-million population, Castañón says that each Mexican could easily consume half a kilogram of honey without needing to send production abroad.
For the near future, Miel Orgánica Bioflora will continue focusing on incorporating more beekeepers into its network. “We have 250 beekeepers located in 10 states and there are around 300 more beekeepers in the certification process,” Castañón says, adding that the cooperative has the potential to develop more and new products to cater to the needs of local and international consumers. “We are developing honey-derived products of high quality, certified in fair trade and all with the organic certification.”
Castañón also highlights the importance of the bees themselves and says bee preservation should be high on the country’s agenda. “Organic beekeepers and their organizations are the best protectors for bees. They are the ones who really can save the bees. Moreover, saving bees is indispensable to ensure food safety, given that they contribute to the production of 70 percent of the food in the planet,” he says.