What does organic actually mean?

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And what is “organic farming"? Besides that, why are fairafric-chocolates labelled as organic and others aren’t? Learn more by reading this short article.

Let’s start with a definition. In Germany, there is a ministry called „Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture“ (in German shortly “BMEL”). And there is one concrete rule that says: Organic farming has to be resource-saving and environmentally compatible, taking into account the idea of sustainability.

That means, amongst many other rules, chemical fertilizers are not allowed, and the ground is kept fertile and viable by using natural techniques. Consequentially, both nature as well as human beings are protected.

We as fairafric are of course fully committed to these principles. As a social business, our company has been founded with the purpose to solve social and / or ecological problems through our actions – and our chocolate. At the same time, social and ecological approaches are by no means mutually exclusive.

That’s why we decided 2017 that we produce our chocolate not only completely in Ghana, but also have it certified organic. We have to say, this was and is not easy. First, we had to find the right suppliers. Our chocolate is more than cacao beans; it also consists of sugar, milk powder (for the milk chocolate) and sunflower lecithin. We managed to get all these ingredients in organic quality.

However, not all ingredients come from Africa. For example, sunflower lecithin is obtained in a highly complicated process (if you want to read more, klick here[2]) and is simply not available in Africa.

The situation is similar with the milk powder: We get it in demeter quality (the highest organic standard in Germany) from a dairy factory called Schrozberg (click here to read more). It’s a little bit easier with the sugar, which we hope to buy from a refinery in Mozambique soon.

Organic cocoa beans

Although heaps of cocoa beans are exported from Ghana, it was not easy to find a suitable cooperative here. That’s why only about 0.1% of cocoa, which is grown in Ghana, is also organic.

In fact, our partner cooperative Yayra Glover is the only cooperative that offers certified organic cocoa beans in Ghana.

This is important in several ways. On the one hand, the cooperation with Yayra Glover means organic cacao beans. On the other hand, it means a clear traceability of the beans. Every single bag is labelled and can be traced back to the farm.

This is not the case with conventional beans. As a producer you often do not know where exactly the beans come from. Due to the exact traceability, we can also give the farmers specific feedback on the quality of their beans. As a result, they learn a lot, especially in terms of how to perfectly ferment the beans after the harvest.

For the training the farmers receive in organic farming techniques, we pay a so-called “organic premium” of US $ 600 per ton of cocoa (in comparison: the Fairtrade premium is $ 200 per ton of cocoa). That means we are paying the highest price that is payed for cocoa beans in Ghana.

The Organic Label of the European Union

In October 2017, for the first time, our chocolate was allowed to bear the EU organic label. But what does this label actually stand for?

The BMEL (we mentioned that ministry before) explains: „Only growers, processing and importing companies that comply with the requirements of organic farming legislation and undergo mandatory controls are entitled to sell their products under the names “organic” or “eco.”[3]

 

That means: We, fairafric, as well as our partners in Ghana (the Yayra Glover cooperative and the production site Niche Cocoa Industry Ltd) are controlled regularly. During these controls product samples are taken.

The organization carrying out these check-ups can be seen on the label: All products have a corresponding code number of the responsible organic inspection body.

Renouncement of the organic label

Since December 2018 we have voluntarily (and temporarily) refrained from having the organic label on our chocolates. In Fall 2018, it wasn’t possible for us to purchase our cocoa beans in flawless organic quality, even though there haven’t been any traces of pesticides on the plantations of our partner cooperative for almost 10 years during all inspections by its certifier.

We also paid the organic premium for the cocoa farmers, even though they did not fully comply with the organic standards. The cooperative has assured that the beans have continued to be grown according to the principles of organic farming and that the lack of organic quality cannot be attributed to misconduct on the part of the farmers.

From our point of view, it is therefore not very constructive to withhold the premium, especially since this would disproportionately punish the weakest links in the supply chain, namely the cocoa farmers.

Together with the cooperative, we have tackled the problem and in 2019 have already been able to obtain flawless, twice-tested organic beans from Yayra Glover!

 

So why is there no organic label on our chocolates in 2019?

Our recent cocoa harvest met the organic standards, but we had to face challenges during the re-certification process of our production partner Niche Cocoa. Unfortunately, we have to continue without the EU organic label until these challenges will be overcome.

Since we are still clearly committed to the principles of organic farming, we will of course continue to work with our usual suppliers and have not changed anything about our ingredients (sugar, milk powder & sunflower lecithin).

Of course we will keep you posted and let you know when fairafric will be back in organic quality.

However, this much can be said: We are currently working on various approaches that will not only allow us to produce an organic product again as soon as possible, but will also enable us to produce a greater variety of varieties and flavours!

For the "bridging time", please feel free to browse our shop or check out some of the other new blog articles about the cocoa market and Demeter milk powder.

 

 

Literature:

[1] http://socialbusinessearth.org/definition/

[2] http://www.sonnenblumenlecithin.info/sonne-vs-soja 

[3] https://www.bmel.de/DE/Landwirtschaft/Nachhaltige-Landnutzung/Oekolandbau/_Texte/Bio-Siegel.html)