Thanks to the International Trade Centre, 15 innovative companies and business networks from five African countries have travelled to Nuremberg, Germany, to take part in the world’s largest organic goods fair, where business worth millions of dollars is done every year.ITC, the UN/WTO agency whose mandate is to help small, developing-country businesses export, invested some $100,000 so that firms and organizations from Rwanda,
Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Madagascar could take advantage of the unique marketing opportunity offered by the annual four-day BioFach fair, which closes on Sunday.
For the first time, the fair is host to a special Organic Africa Pavilion where some 75 concerns and business networks, mostly sponsored by governments or other international organizations, are displaying organic products ranging from foods, herbs, spices and essential oils to fertilizer made in Madagascar from bat droppings.
“The Africa Pavilion is a fantastic initiative to bring more visibility to African exporters and ITC welcomes the opportunity to be able to contribute to it,” said ITC Executive Director Patricia R. Francis, who will speak at the Pavilion on Saturday.
“ITC wants to be a partner in selling high-quality, ‘Made in Africa’ products around the world,” she added.
After officially opening the trade fair, French film star Gérard Depardieu, himself a producer of organic wine, dropped by the African Pavilion and praised the products on show. “This is very tasty,” he said as he sipped a glass of hibiscus cordial from Uganda.
The international market for organic goods is booming and sales worldwide are estimated to have topped $40 billion in 2007. BioFach draws exhibitors from 78 countries, together with some 45,000 buyers.
For Africa, where the climate is often favourable, organic agriculture offers particular advantages. It helps create jobs, so reducing poverty, and it can empower women and improve the environment, thus contributing to achieving the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
“I can see that there is a huge market,” said Samuel Nyanzi, Executive Director of National Organic Agriculture Movement of Uganda, whose company is one of those being assisted by ITC.
Donatille Nibagwire directs a firm exporting some 70 tonnes a year of fruit and vegetables from Rwanda’s Kirehe district, near the border with Tanzania, to Belgium. Like Nyanzi, she is confident that the visit to Nuremberg will open up new markets.
But if the potential is big, so are some of the problems facing producers of organic goods. In order to win export orders, products have to be certified as being “organic” by internationally recognized agencies. There is also fierce international competition.
Nyanzi’s firm, which was set up in 2000, produces 500 – 800 kilos a month of dried pineapples, apple-bananas and mangos; 75% is exported.
His output has to be labelled “organically-produced”, rather than “organic”, because the company does not yet have the necessary certificates. “It is very expensive to do,” he said, but he added that he hoped that his presence at the fair would help to raise the necessary financing.