Synthesis Documents

The Organic Business Guide: Developing Sustainable Value Chains with Smallholders, Various Agencies, 2010

    This guide is aimed at those actively engaged in setting up or in managing organic businesses with smallholders. The guide offers an overview of the global organic markets, advice on how to structure and manage an organic business, case studies and success stories, and an outline of the key linkages in organic value chains. The guide also contains a section on general business and management principles, as well as a section on how to obtain and maintain organic certification.

    Summary of results
    Some interesting recommendations include:
    • In general it is a lot easier for existing companies and cooperatives to convert (part of) their business to organics rather than for companies and cooperatives to be started up for the purpose of going into organic business.

    • Where farmers are constrained in their access to credit, organic production has the advantage of reducing the cost of inputs (no need for pesticides).

    • An organic business usually cannot rely on middlemen; it requires direct, repeat contact with certified farmers.

    • New ventures should be demand-driven, not determined simply by willingness to supply.

    • While export markets offer the best opportunities for organic producers in many developing countries, local and regional markets can also be a valuable source of revenues.

    • Key selling points for organic produce are quality, price, flexibility and a unique story.

    • Recognising and promoting the roles that women can play in the organic value chain is not only good for equality; it will probably improve efficiency as well.

    • Temporary facilitators like development NGOs should not take up tasks that are permanently needed, and should especially refrain from buying and selling the produce.

    • Yields are likely to be lower during the first 2-3 years of conversion from conventional to organic farming.

    • NB: The global market for organic produce is ten times larger than the market for Fair Trade goods, although the Fair Trade market is growing faster.

    In addition to the main text, a summary of the Organic Business Guide in French, translated by Gret, is available on the right hand side.