Organic: a value-added business that is here to stay

20 Sep 2020

The paradigm shift on how and what is consumed has led to a marked increase in the demand for this type of product. Due to its low rainfall, the province is the cradle of the development of the sector.

The growing trend in the consumption of “organic”, “ecological” or “biological” products is something that has been observed for some time all over the world. This is supported by the latest figures from the Rural Development Institute (IDR) that show that the harvested organic area increased in Argentina, compared to the previous year, by 5% during 2018, with 80,880 hectares, not counting wild collection, achieving the second best brand and very close to the historical figure of 2016, according to Senasa figures. To this is also added the experience of the producers themselves, who realize the increase in sales and ensure that, in order to meet the demand, it is necessary that more and more traditional producers switch to organic. 2018 marked another record for organic agriculture globally. According to a study called “The world of organic agriculture” published by FiBL and IFOAM – Organics International, 71.5 million hectares were registered with organic agriculture, representing 2.9% or 2 million hectares more compared to 2017, being Argentina the second most cultivated country with 3.6 million hectares, quite far from Australia’s 35.7 million hectares.

From the Argentine Movement for Organic Production (MAPO), Igor Baratoff, also owner of Our Hands, a company that produces certified organic food, said that the organization encourages traditional producers to switch to organic agriculture because consider that the demand will continue to grow and the province of Mendoza presents great probabilities for the development of this type of crops, not only in the vine, the most representative of the province, but in the different fruit trees and also meats, which are highly demanded in the international market, with the European Union and the United States as the main destinations, and increasingly in domestic consumption.

Baratoff pointed out that, as of today, demand is exceeding supply. There is a great need to expand the range of bioecological products available on the market and there is a lot of unmet demand.

The photo of September 2020 shows that the commercialization of these products, the demand and their production have increased considerably. Especially during the pandemic, since March, the growth in the consumption of this type of food has been exponential and, in his personal case with Our Hands, sales have multiplied by three or four.

Although the production of this type has an additional cost, the businessman considered that it is not as it is believed, much less impossible to pay. For him it is an investment that is worth it because the product is in demand. Today an organic certification can cost, for a producer, around $ 30,000 annually, according to MAPO figures.

Our Hands is presented as an example, for other SMEs and producers, that production can be valued.

From the production of jams, organic peaches in syrup -the only company in Argentina- and tomato pulp, it has allowed a profitability and has generated a chain with producers due to the demand for new organic products, more and more.

A centuries-old tradition

The statistics provided by the IDR showed that industrial crops are not only the most important in the country but that, in 2018, they had growth. This segment includes the vine, olive, tobacco, sugar cane and textile crops, and the province of Mendoza, with 5,531 hectares, is the third in quantity cultivated behind Tucumán and Jujuy.

For the province, industrialists represent the main crop, with viticulture as a reference, with an export of more than six million liters of organic wine per year.

Every day the examples of wineries that turn to organic production grow and one of the oldest in this type of production is Cecchín, the first 100 percent certified organic establishment.

Alberto Cecchín, who is in charge of the family business, recalls that his tradition began in 1908, when his great-grandfather arrived from Italy and, because he did not know chemicals, started his business naturally. Over the generations, he decided to continue making his wines without chemicals, more out of personal choice than legacy.

In the full boom of chemical products, 20 or 30 years ago, they came to the conclusion that they did not want to use them in their vineyards, so they decided “to produce less but of better quality”.

Cecchín wines are mostly destined for the foreign market, which accounts for practically 70% or 75% of their production. However, in recent months, local consumption has grown a lot due to the increase that has occurred throughout the country.

The businessman understands that with organic products it is not that new consumers are born but that he is someone who turns to organic from conventional consumption. “Many producers who until yesterday were conventional, to call them in a way, now seek to turn to organic because they see that the cake is getting bigger,” he said about the increase in supply among his competitors.

Organic production in the South oasis

The 7,165 total hectares cultivated in Mendoza are distributed throughout the provincial territory. Thus, in San Rafael, more precisely in Las Paredes, we find Finca Paru, one of the only ones in the South region that has organic primary production and certified processing.

More for a personal conviction than for a future business, Bárbara Zapata and Germán López, she chef and he graduated in Agrarian Economies, settled in the province permanently in 2014 and began their venture that for three years has also been open to the public. tourism, where people can see how it is produced in season, the different processes and tastings can be done. They make fresh fruits and tomatoes, sauces, sweets, aromatics and more. The marked increase in the consumption of natural products, especially organic inputs, has led them to expand their plantations more and more, so this year they will incorporate more aromatic plants, such as rosehips, and fruit, such as watermelon and melon.

Zapata understands that the demand for organic products has grown because there is more consumer awareness. She sees that herself in the number of people who come to the farm and ask her about seeds for their own gardens, for example. “People want to know what they eat, where it comes from or what control they have. The Argentine organic seal is a guarantee for the consumer ”.

The distribution of their products occurs in some natural stores or some supermarkets and also private customers who come directly to the place to look for them.

In the South, there is very little competition in the sale of bioecological products. Even in their specialty, Finca Paru are the only ones, something that for them is not so satisfactory, but they would like more producers to be encouraged to bet on organic crops to increase the offer and thus achieve a greater adherence of consumers to this type of product, which would have a direct impact on the price.

Source: Los Andes