14 February 2012

Africa: Certified Organic Farming Generates 90 Trillion

CERTIFIED organic farming is now a lucrative business that generates a whopping 60 billion US dollars (about 90trn/-) annually although millions of farmers remain outside the formal system, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a statement on Monday.

The UN agency said that the world has now an estimated two million certified organic farmers of whom 80 percent are in developing countries with 34 percent of them in Africa, including Tanzania. Asia has 29 percent while Latin America has 17 percent.

"Developing countries account for 73 percent of land certified for organic wild collection and beekeeping...other countless developing country farmers practice organic agriculture without being formally certified," UNCTAD noted. Organic agriculture relies on healthy soils and active agroecological management rather than on the use of inputs with adverse effects such as artificial pesticides and fertilizers.

It combines tradition, innovation and science. Among the benefits are higher incomes, more stable and nutritious diets, higher soil fertility, reduced soil erosion, better resilience to climate extremes such as drought and heavy rainfall, greater resource efficiency, lower carbon footprints,less dependence on purchased external inputs and reduced ruralurban migration, the UNCTAD said.

The UN agency that cater for trade and development pointed out that organic products are increasingly fetching higher prices globally averaging between 15 and 150 percent more than conventional products. "Minor differences in organic standards and certification requirements can hinder this trade. Harmonization and equivalence - that is, mutual recognition of different standards and conformity assessment systems - are a means of overcoming these differences so that markets for organic products continue to grow," the statement added.

The latest news comes at a time when the government has announced major policy shift to allow research on genetically engineered organisms backed by an over 5bn/- per annum grant from United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Professor Jumanne Maghembe said in Dar es Salaam last week that the government is moving towards embracing GMOs which many parts of the world have rejected because of concerns of environment, health and trade patents.

An organic conference started on Monday in Nuremberg, Germany which is co-sponsored by BioFach, the world's largest organic trade show. The conference which will be addressed by UNCTAD Director for Division for International Trade in Goods and Services, Guillermo Valles, Deputy Director General of World Trade Organization, Harsha Singh and Assistant Director General of Food and Agriculture Organization, Alexander Mueller among many other distinguished personalities will review progress made in the past decade since the public-private effort to expand the range of places where developing country farmers can sell their organic products was initiated.

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