International trade in organic produce at home in the Netherlands
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
As a trading nation the Netherlands plays a prominent role in the international trade in organic produce. As early as the seventeenth century, Dutch traders sailed the oceans discovering hitherto unknown countries like China, Ceylon and India. Nowadays the buyers of Tradin, Do-It and Doens may travel by air, but Asia is still the main source of organic tea, herbs and spices and to a growing extent grains, pulses and seeds too. Batches of organic fruit from South Africa and South America are also distributed throughout the world via the Netherlands. Increasing interest from regular businesses has led to stricter quality requirements, and “organic” is now one of the designations used next to other quality aspects.
Dutch businesses are responding to this development by controlling the chain from source to end product and by participating in international food quality programmes.
There are several reasons why Dutch companies in particular have acquired a strong position in international trade. Due to its geographic location, the Netherlands relies on trade with the hinterland. Furthermore many Dutch people can speak several foreign languages. Last but not least, Dutch traders tend to focus on turnover volumes rather than margins.
Tradin Organic Agriculture, domiciled in Amsterdam, is the global market leader in organic produce. Sister company Trabocca (organic coffee, tea and spices) is also located in Amsterdam, and another sister company OTC-Holland (fresh organic fruit and vegetables) can be found in Lelystad. Although Tradin, founded by director Wim Rabbi (picture), is essentially a trading company, it is also occupied with setting up and managing organic projects and quality control systems. Buyers are demanding increasingly strict quality guarantees and also want an insight into the control systems applied. As Tradin is active throughout the chain, from farmer to end user, it is in a position to give such guarantees. On a global level the company has various quality services, including a team of four people at the head office in Amsterdam. Tradin works in accordance with ISO, HACCP, BRC and GMP requirements. The sales offices in Germany, France, Austria and the United States are directed from Amsterdam. Sales to other countries and regions take place at the Amsterdam office itself, which has specialized salespeople for markets such as Italy, Spain and Japan. The global purchasing activities, carried out partly by the company’s own branches in China, Serbia, South-East Asia, Central America and South America, are also coordinated from Amsterdam. Tradin now has its own processing facilities in several countries, such as an IQF deep-freeze factory and cleaning and hulling facilities in China, and an ICQ deep-freeze factory in Serbia. 23 people work at the head office in Amsterdam, 17 of who are traders and project coordinators. On a global level the group of businesses employs more than 150 people. In 2004 Tradin realized a turnover of approximately 60 million euros (consolidated).
DO-IT realized a turnover of approximately 20 million euros in 2004. This business, which employs 23 people, has been located in Barneveld since 1990. The main activity consists of the purchase (global) and sale (mainly in Europe) of organic products such as citrus oil, sea salt, cereals and cereal products, pulses, nuts, seeds and sweeteners. The business also markets its own branded products under the names of La BioIdea and Amaizin.
DO-IT, founded by director Poppe Braam, participates in organic farming projects (picture/DO-IT) in countries including China, Brazil, Bolivia, Mozambique and Sudan. The business applies fair trade principles. Together with the Triodos Bank it is helping to finance the sesame harvest of an 18,000 hectare organic farming project in Sudan, thus ensuring the continuity of the project.
Doens Foods started out around 150 years ago as a grain windmill in the Zeeland village of IJzendijke. The current owner-director Walter Doens expanded the business into an international raw produce wholesaler. Since the late nineteen-eighties, Doens Foods has specialized in the trade, processing and storage of organic products, with a broad range that enables one-stop shopping. The business is now one of the top three organic product suppliers in Europe. Doens Food distinguishes itself from other wholesalers in the fact that almost all products purchased are first sent to IJzendijke for processing, even batches that are destined to be re-exported. In order to continue to meet the growing European demand for high-quality organic products, the business opened a second warehouse with a capacity of three thousand pallets in 2005. This warehouse (picture) has a computer-regulated climate control system enabling the precise regulation of temperature and humidity.
Horizon started out almost thirty years ago as a small pioneering natural food business. It now employs twenty people and is one of the top European specialists in the field of organic nuts, subtropical fruits and seeds. The production of organic nut spreads, which are marketed throughout Europe under the brand name Monki, forms the heart of Horizon’s business activities. Around half of its turnover comes from the trade in bulk products. Within this specialist market the business has established a particularly strong position in the organic almonds trade. Together with four other European businesses Horizon set up the Good Food Foundation in 1986. This foundation manages organic farming projects in Turkey. www.goodfood.nl/horizon.htm
The Organic Flavour Company (OFC) markets several consumer brands in the Netherlands and also supplies herbs, spices and tea in bulk packaging to processing companies and trading companies within and outside Europe under the brand name Euroherb. In 2005, OFC expects to sell around 1000 metric tons of herbs, spices and tea.
Paprika, onion, cinnamon, ginger and fennel are the company’s most important products. Far-reaching traceability can be guaranteed due to direct involvement in projects in countries such as Vietnam, Bulgaria and Egypt. The development of mixed herbs, mixed spices and blended teas is a specialist field of OFC. For these products (picture) an entire development trajectory can be mapped out, from the initial idea to the ultimate processing into semi-finished or end products.
Dutch producers and Dutch traders all like to go straight to the source in order to obtain maximum control over price and quality. Ariza (picture), a Dutch producer of fruit concentrates and purées, has now set up a production facility called Arisu in Turkey. This was advantageous due to the favourable growth climate, the close proximity to the EU, and the relatively low wage costs. This investment in the primary link in the production chain suits Ariza’s quality drive and gives the business a unique position in the organic market. This drive for transparency and quality control has made Ariza the first and only supplier of BRC certified organic products from Turkey. In the Netherlands Ariza has its own modern premises with conditioned storage and blending and laboratory facilities. The customers are primarily European industrial processing companies, such as producers of baby food, jam and biscuits. Ariza has been marketing monitored organic fruit concentrates since 1991, and most of its turnover now comes from organic products.
Eosta imports and distributes fruit from the Tropics and the southern hemisphere and products from Dutch greenhouses (peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers). The business is the European market leader in these two groups. Around eighty per cent of the Dutch organic greenhouse production is marketed via Eosta. Only one per cent of the sales is realized in the Netherlands, and around sixty per cent of the turnover comes from supermarket chains such as Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, Tesco in England, EDEKA in Germany and Migros in Switzerland. Eosta employs about sixty people, fifty of whom work at the head office in Waddinxveen. Eosta (picture: manager Volkert Engelsman) acts as a chain manager, supervising harvests throughout the entire process from crop planning to packaging. This applies to producers from the Dutch polders but also to a farmer from Bloublommetjeskloof in South Africa. Eosta has developed a consumer concept called Nature and More, which has been acknowledged with a national award. This system assigns a code and a website to each product, providing the consumer with information on the origin, the producer and assessments relating to product quality, ecological quality and social-cultural quality. (Test avocados from Mexico with product code 440 on www.natureandmore.com. www.eosta.nl)
For many years Nautilus was the top exporter of fresh Dutch fruit and vegetables. At its peak 130 organic arable farmers were affiliated with this cooperation. However, the growth of competition made it difficult for Nautilus to maintain its leading export position. The market became more balanced and this put pressure on prices. Last year Nautilus joined forces with Naturelle, the organic branch of De Greenery, the largest Dutch supplier of fruit and vegetables to supermarkets. To avoid dependence on one market party, arable farmer Piet van Andel developed an individual strategy together with colleagues Douwe Molsma and Gert Jan Snippe. With three arable farms in Flevoland they concentrated on the production of crops such as potatoes, wheat, spelt, red and yellow onions, green beans, sweet corn, beetroots and various types of cabbage. By investing jointly in storage capacity and packaging lines, the group is able to offer a full range of cabbages and beetroots all year round. The group operates under the pragmatic name of Bio Brassa (Brassica = cabbage).
Even though the European Union has still not made the use of organic seeds and planting stock compulsory, the Dutch government is stimulating the use of these organic products. Dutch breeding specialists such as Bejo, Vitalis and Agrico, which currently operate mainly on the national market for organic seeds and planting stock, are ready to scale up their production to a European level. Farmers cooperative association Agrico is not just occupied with breeding seed potatoes, it is also involved in marketing activities. Around one hundred of the thirteen hundred affiliated arable farmers grow a total of around 400 hectares of organic ware potatoes. The most familiar brand names are EkoSante, EkoAgria and EkoDitta.
Over seventy Dutch organic trading and production companies are affiliated with the VBP. All of these companies are mentioned on the VBP website. The VBP represents the collective interests of its members with the aim of stimulating the trade in organic products and providing permanent guarantees regarding the quality of these products.
On an international level the VBP works with AOEL (Germany), Probila (Belgium) and Synabio (France) within the umbrella trade organization European Office of Processors and Distributors of Organic Products (BEO). Main international objective of the BEO is effective lobby in Brussels in favour of the organic manufacturing and trading companies in the EU.