- 10 May 2021
A focus on fair trade in partnership with Biopartenaire® and the SICA Bio-plantes.
Biopartenaire® is the first label to associate organic farming and fair trade in the same specifications. Today, it remains the only label for organic and fair trade partnerships in France and in the world.
A major choice
The notion of "fair trade" for French supply chains was officially recognized in 2014 with the law on social and solidarity economy. Easily understood for North-South partnerships (developing countries), the benefits are also becoming obvious for North-North partnerships (local, national, European producers). Consumers' interest has increased particularly after the various crises that productions have undergone, the health crisis and the demand for proximity and transparency.
The choice of fair trade remains in both cases a major stake. Biopartenaire® is an association that promotes organic and fair trade through its independent label. In connection with them and to give more in-depth aspect of the impacts of fair trade, we interviewed Claire.
SICA Bio-plantes director
This nature lover is the director of the SICA Bio-plantes, the 100% organic farmers' cooperative partner of our Dauphiné-Provence sector.
Claire loves "the magic" in the cultivation of aromatic plants: colors, smells, plants specificities, the beauty of the distillation process... She grows lavender and lavandin in the “Drôme Provençale” and also a few hectares of rosemary, thyme and everlasting. Crops are adapted to the soil and climate of her land. The plants require all Claire’s great care.
Hello Claire, I am delighted to have you for this interview. We have been lucky enough to work together for over 21 years.
We have been developing a fair trade approach via our Dauphiné-Provence chain for more than 20 years. Our partnership is officially certified since 2009 by Biopartenaire® (formerly named Biosolidaire®).
How would you define our collaboration?
"I would say that our collaboration is based on several points. First of all the commitment on the duration, with a commercial partnership contract renewed every five years. It is important to be long-term oriented, especially in agriculture, and even more so in perfumed, aromatic, and medicinal plants. Our activity requires a slower pace than the market. With Elixens, the SICA producers have guaranteed outlets and the assurance of being paid right away at a fair price.
Secondly, mutual transparency by sharing our concerns, like an old couple, and seeking solutions together. The quality of the products, the regulations, the customers' requirements, the testing of new plants, and of course the prices! Everything is discussed and negotiated until a common agreement is found.
And finally, the desire for harmonious development. Now firmly established in the Drôme (South of France), Elixens has proven is a desire to invest in the region. As for the SICA, it has not stopped growing since then, whether in terms of turnover or the number of producers. I don't know who is leading the other, but the fact is that the development is confirmed year after year."
Can you describe more precisely the advantages of the fair trade relationship between the farmers cooperative you represent and Elixens?
"One of the advantages is that such relationship brings long term visibility for our products. With Elixens we know which customers are buying which plants and for what type of application. We also know the reasons why this or that product is experiencing marketing difficulties, and how we can improve things together.
And then, as I said, we discuss prices every year, sometimes spending time on certain materials that are in high demand or those with a slow turnover. It's important to have an informed discussion.
Fair trade also allows us to have access to very specific markets for specific plants because Elixens make suggestions on new crops every year. As the whole partnership framework is already there, starting to grow a new plant is never risky."
What difficulties can farmers who are not involved into a fair trade agreement around you can encounter?
"What is happening currently is quite revealing. On one side, the collapse of conventional lavandin prices, which has a slight effect on organic qualities. On the other side with the strong consumer interest in natural products and the tightening of regulations concerning as shown by those products. We find ourselves in a context that is both tense and competitive, developing but very demanding. The SICA/Elixens partnership is reassuring. As shown by the number of requests for new memberships that we receive!
On the other hand, non-committed producers must feel a little helpless in the face of this complexity."
Organic farming requires more time, labor, land, controls... with usually lower yields. Fair trade guarantees fair conditions. What message would you like to address to our industrial clients to promote responsible organic farming?
"For us who cultivate aromatic plants, it applies even more as we have to lead an incessant fight against weeds, without chemical weedkillers of course!
Fair trade is meant to guarantee fair conditions. Saying this could sound obvious today, nevertheless, we should not idealize the situation either: the clients involved in fair trade agreements are also very demanding and want to reach standardized excellence.
I want to say to these industrial clients: say yes to organic agriculture which has chosen not to pollute the water and the earth of our children. But no, for choosing fair trade and organic ingredients and try to buy it for less than its value. It's not just about purchasing ingredients with a clear conscience, it's about making a strong commitment and it comes with a price.
And don't forget that we, organic farmers, work with our environment: the wind, the storm, the hail, the rain, the mud, the frost, the heat, the dryness, the clouds, the stones, the insects, the weeds that always grow too fast!"
Fair trade is a very demanding agricultural, social, commercial and ecological commitment chain.
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