Organic production as a development model
25 Aug 2020
Today’s consumer is experiencing significant changes, accelerated by the pandemic and its effects. Certain choices are questioned, such as food and its forms of production.
This more careful consumption will shape the food management systems, favoring those that offer the most guarantees. Organic production is defined by law 25.127 / 99 as: “Ecological, biological or organic is understood to be any agricultural production system, its corresponding agro-industry, as well as collection, capture and hunting systems, sustainable over time. and that through the rational management of natural resources and avoiding the use of chemical synthesis products and others with a real or potential toxic effect on human health, provide healthy products, maintain or increase soil fertility and biological diversity, conserve water resources and present or intensify the biological cycles of the soil to supply nutrients destined for plant and animal life, providing natural systems, plant crops and livestock with conditions that allow them to express the basic characteristics of their innate behavior, covering the physiological and ecological needs ”.
This definition reveals the most obvious dimensions of what is known as “organic production”. Among them, the health care of the producer, his collaborators and the consumer; caring for the environment by promoting biodiversity; and the care and improvement of the soil.
But this definition does not bring to light the important dimensions that make it an alternative development model to the current one. These dimensions are related to the care of the territory through the maintenance of rural populations; the generation of networks of small producers, only viable thanks to associativism; the promotion of local consumption; the care of the social fabric and the revitalization of rural communities. There are other dimensions on which its impact is currently being explored, of which we will highlight two. In the first place, perhaps the most relevant, Regenerative Agriculture, one of the highest thresholds of Organic Production that is impacting all production systems. And, secondly, the investigation of environmentally-friendly technologies, today also in use in conventional agriculture.
Organic production is a production system or model with specific characteristics, which can well be analyzed like other agri-food chains, similar in its components, but with shorter links. Thus, the chain is made up of primary transformer producers, distributors, marketers, exporters, supermarkets, specialized stores, transporters and, unlike other chains, it also has home distribution systems, fairs and various points of sale. The fundamental difference of the organic chain with other traditional chains is that food is managed considering the impacts of each of its links, and that is what an organic consumer rewards.
When considering how organic production is currently impacted by COVID-19, we find situations similar to those of the conventional sector, defining it as the one that uses chemical synthesis products in production management and also allows genetically modified organisms. The common problems that affect them are very diverse: lack of growers, breakdown of the payment chain and lack of access to inputs, among others.
Given the particular situation of the pandemic, it is possible to differentiate different reactions in urban and rural areas: the countryside with an almost normal performance and working at the usual pace and the city with a great risk of contagion, acting fearfully and, at times , with irrational behaviors, which some qualify as typical of a collective psychosis. But if we consider this term with specialists we can understand that it has many more implications, so we will only understand those irrational behaviors as a consequence of a serious distortion of perceptions. This can be largely attributed to the fears fueled by social media and the media.
This situation determines clearly differentiated behaviors: in the countryside, nature continues its normal rhythm, nothing has changed too much, all systems act almost without knowing that there is a pandemic. Consequently, producers continue to work in a normal way, with the exception of some modifications due to factors external to the biological production systems, such as transport, labor, access to financial circuits or the alteration of the payment chain. among other.
On the contrary, in the city, everyone’s behavior has been remarkably modified and governed, certainly, by the different levels of fear that affect the population, reacting abnormally to the unknown. Despite these distortions that may arise, organic foods continue to reach the consumer, the chain works practically normally, supplying those who expect a different food for their diet every day. In exports, everything works almost normally, the flow of organic products is the usual one, only altered by external factors that affect the flow of trade at a global level.
The markets, in turn, remain at a normal level of supply and consumption. As with all food products at the beginning of the pandemic, consumers of organic foods accumulated products, especially non-perishable ones, anticipating potential supply problems.
It was to be expected and it turned out to be the situation of various products, including food that, due to this initial accumulation, consumption decreased until the stocks generated by purchases made at the beginning of the pandemic were reduced. But to the surprise of many organic processors and marketers this situation did not happen with organic products. On the contrary, consumption remained at normal pre-pandemic levels or in some cases higher. This is attributed to a positive reaction from the consumer who, in the face of a situation of general uncertainty, turned to a greater extent to the purchase of organic products, as a healthier option, thus covering their concerns about the origin of the food, its management linked to natural processes and the transparency of this chain that allows it to easily monitor the productive origin of raw materials.
Now, when it comes to imagining how we will be in a year with respect to organic production, it is very difficult to predict it. What we know for sure is that organic production does not depend on mass advertising to convince consumers of its virtues, since it is the consumer himself who leads the increase in consumption, because he himself, in his imagination, has Of course, Organic Production means: care for the environment, care for the social fabric and equity. And, above all, it represents a safe and quality food, two attributes that ensure all members of the chain, from production to arrival for consumption.
Today’s consumer is experiencing a change in perceptions and priorities, opting for a safe food that meets their expectations. These expectations are not only related to the intrinsic safety of food, but also to the impacts and degree of safety generated by food management, from the production of its raw materials until it reaches your table.
A consumer, who, with more time to think, seeks to get closer and closer to nature. In the reordering of its priorities, it decides to which it redirects its resources, where it considers positive to deposit its economic energy, voting with its wallet and thus favoring sustainable models over others. In this way, it assumes a role of joint responsibility for the direct and indirect consequences of the management models that it benefits from its choices.
How long this phenomenon of change will last and how intense it will be, no one knows for sure. It is possible to affirm that the more intense and prolonged the current situation, the more profound and lasting will be the changes in the consumer. It is clear once again that the force that will shape the new reality is in the hands of the consumers of the cities, not only because they represent a very high percentage of the population, but because they are the ones who are suffering the most. intensity of the pandemic and those who most seek security in what they consume in the face of this situation.
The pandemic has accelerated awareness in the election process, a factor that was always present. Consumers choose their food more and more considering where they were produced, how they were produced, what was used in their management, who benefits from their choice, this entails traceability that allows them to be traced and a certification that supports any quality appeal made for tilt your decision favorable. In this way, it aims to achieve transparency and guarantees of food safety and security, adding social and environmental impact.
What does the organic producer need today to evolve in the current context: simply to be allowed to work in harmony with nature, solving problems external to their productive management. Mitigating, as much as possible, all the distortions related to transportation, labor and, above all, the uncertainty generated by the lack of clear and stable policies.
In the long term, the growth of the markets will be related to the privilege of the factors so far described, since man is acting alternatively led by his animal behavior and his behavior of being rational. His basic behavior, largely governed by his fears related to food safety, is resolved with organic products, by the guarantees and trust that they generate. Having overcome his fears, his rational behavior leads him to favor social and environmental aspects, since he perceives that climate change will continue to evolve in a negative way and that inequities are increasing. It is aware of the evolution of sustainable technologies and their incorporation into management systems, both organic and conventional products.
Consequently, future scenarios are envisioned that will positively impact local consumption. Today local consumption is strengthening and consumers will tend to favor it even more, since this modality responds to their needs and will continue to do so, in addition to satisfying the need to respond to social and environmental demand concerns. All of the above will undoubtedly determine a profound change in the development model, since it is clear that the current model took us where we are, which is not where we want to be.