Farmers Collective

How certification can pave a route to market

Certification can open a route to international markets for small-scale regenerative growers worldwide.

In episode ten of the regenagri podcast, regular host Harry Farnsworth is joined by Bobbie Garbutt, who shares insight into what certification can mean for growers. Bobbie’s family grow nutmeg and cocoa on L’Esterre Estate in Grenada, using regenerative farming methods. She is also a sales associate at Ethiopian agribusiness, Greenpath Food, which supplies organic fresh produce from small-scale East African farms to businesses around the world.

Following the podcast, we received several questions about this, so wanted to take the opportunity to delve a bit further into the case studies that Harry and Bobbie discussed.

Cocoa harvest at Bobbie’s farm

Accessing export markets

For many small-scale growers, exporting produce brings multiple benefits, such as ensuring reliable demand and providing an opportunity to receive a higher price than selling locally.

Greenpath Food supply a range of global customers, including supermarkets and speciality businesses, with fresh produce such as avocados, green beans and perennial herbs. The supermarkets need to be confident that the right tonnage of product will arrive on a weekly basis, a demand which Greenpath Food are able to meet by working with a large number of small-scale growers. To keep supplying supermarkets, it is essential produce is competitively priced, and the organic certification is the ticket to assurance of a higher price for the fresh produce supplied.

In Grenada, the chocolate companies based on the island are dependent on tourism for local sales and the impact of the pandemic on tourism has made producers vulnerable too.  It has pushed both growers and processors towards the export market. Since 2017, organic certified cocoa farms have been able to export directly to overseas customers, rather than pursuing the standard route to export in Grenada, which requires growers to sell directly to the government. For Bobbie’s farm, this has allowed them to sell their cocoa at double the price compared to what they previously received.   

Adding value in country

When accessing export markets, it pays to add as much value as possible in-country. Greenpath Food have a pack house in Ethiopia, where beans are topped and tailed before being packed for export. Bobbie’s family farm in Grenada takes a similar approach, by doing as much of the processing and packing as possible to add value to their produce. The cocoa is fermented for seven days after picking and then dried on-farm, while the nutmeg is dried for six to eight weeks before shipping.

Growing using regenerative methods

Greenpath Food work with growers who are committed to looking after their land by using low input systems. Growers are provided with seedlings from the company nursery, which uses seeds that are suitable for local growing conditions to provide resilient plants. They also have access to agronomist advisers, who have supported with water management systems to help regenerate the land and enable more regular, dependable harvests. Greenpath Food supports growers with the organic certification process and absorbs the cost on their behalf. Growers are also paid regularly to ensure they have a stable income. The company has reviewed the impact for growers, and found that many have been able to diversify their businesses by purchasing a small number of livestock and selling milk or eggs locally, increasing their resilience.

In Grenada, the methods used for growing nutmeg and cocoa on L’Esterre Estate have been regenerating and adding value to the land for 300 years. Bobbie sees potential for the business to access additional income through carbon markets, however there is still a long way to go in terms of building the infrastructure for capturing data to make this work practically.

To learn more listen to the podcast episode here, or find the regenagri podcast on your usual podcast platform.