More than a hundred participants from 13 African countries will take part in this year's BioFach, the world's premier trade show for the booming international organic foods sector. BioFach brings together more than 2,500 exhibitors and approximately 45,000 trade visitors from over 110 countries in Nuremberg, Germany every February, this year from the 21st to the 24th.
Fuelled by health and environmental concerns in wealthy countries, organic products are the fastest growing sub-sector of the global food market. For the foreseeable future, demand for organic products will struggle behind supply.
An increasing number of African farmers' groups are joining the effort to supply organic produce, primarily to the European Union, but also to the US, Japan and other markets. The standards for organic certification are stringent but the production systems are close enough to those employed by many African smallholder farmers that they can be assisted to supply this lucrative market.
The price premiums for organic products over their conventionally-grown equivalents are one strong motivation for the growing interest of farmers to supplying organically certified produce. But there are other benefits.
Having learned to produce export quality crops without synthetic fertilizer and agro-chemicals, farmers become better all-round producers. They decrease their dependence on expensive agricultural inputs while learning natural ways to boost their crop yields.
The successful adoption of organic production systems not only saves the farmers money in production costs, the price premiums and new market opportunities also increase their incomes. The health and environmental benefits of avoiding agro-chemical use are simply additional reasons for the attractiveness of organic production. The successful adoption of organic production methods requires more understanding, monitoring and
record-keeping, making producers better all-around farmers and businesspersons, therefore helping their progression from subsistence to commercial farming.
The continent's exhibitors will for the first time at BioFach be grouped together in an 'African Pavilion.' This will make it easier for them to share experiences with each other, as well as for show-goers to see the full range of their products. The approximately 120 African exhibitors represent exporters, export promotion agencies, organizations supporting organic agriculture and others.
The African countries taking part in this year's BioFach are Burkina Faso; Benin; Cameroon; Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Madagascar; Rwanda; South Africa; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is expected that the high profile of the African Pavilion will spread the word about the economic opportunity the demand for organic products offers, attracting more countries to participate in the future.
By Chido Makunike
Makunike is an Agricultural Consultant based in Dakar, Senegal
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