During an international seminar on Tuesday 24 May in Bandung, Indonesia at UNPAD University, growers, agricultural organizations and research institutes met under the title: “Research farmers and agro-eco-preneurs: pathways to adapt to and mitigate climate change”, to talk about the adaptations needed to produce food in a changing climate.
Frank de Koning from the organic horticultural company FJJ de Koning BV from Brielle contributed to the seminar via video connection from the Netherlands. More than three years ago, a delegation from Indonesia visited his company, among other places. His business operations made a great impression. Therefore, Frank de Koning was asked to collaborate at the seminar.
Frank shared his experiences with the organic market in a panel debate, such as Sylvia Kuria from Sylvia’s Basket from Kenya and Bapak Untung from Tani Organic Merapi from Indonesia.
In 2000, Frank switched to organic farming, and the rock wool in his greenhouse was replaced by plants in the open country. “For a few weeks a year we had an overproduction of tomatoes and cucumbers and it did not feel right. I was looking for a way to change the market and found it in organic farming. I also wanted to make customers happy with healthy and tasty products. It was also a personal challenge to grow organically, because it had been cultivated here in the open for a long time, “he says about his choice.
It was very different for Sylvia Kuria, who started her company Sylvia’s Basket when she shared her story of how, as a young mother, she went in search of the best nutrition for her children. She started delivering boxes of fruits and vegetables to nearby families on a weekly basis and opened a store a few years later. During the corona pandemic, she started a home delivery service. Her company makes extensive use of social media and most orders come in via WhatsApp.
Use of empty trucks
One from the hall asked if it took a long time to become profitable. Frank stated that he was dealing with a two-year transition period. At that time, a grower was still selling his products at the price of conventional products. “But you want that investment in a year or two because of the higher price of organic products.”
Sylvia started making money by closing a good deal with a logistics provider that brings goods from the city to the villages and thus returns to the city with empty trucks. She could use that. She also encouraged growers to sell the products at a reasonable price and in larger quantities. Organic products in Kenya are twenty to thirty percent more expensive than conventional products and are therefore more affordable than people first think, Sylvia explains.
Pepper and plastic
A video gave a look into Frank’s company, and for a moment a shot of pointed peppers in a plastic container passed by. In Kenya, there is a ban on disposable plastic packaging, so Sylvia said: “I would advise the rest of the world to join Kenya. At first there was panic over the plastic ban, but in fact it is packaging that has been made easier. We deliver our products in boxes and reuse those boxes. “
Frank then explained that his products are packaged according to the customer’s wishes. “Now it’s partly plastic, but we pack most goods in cardboard. Some goods are sold separately. But because the supermarkets want to make a difference between organic and conventional goods on the shelf, they more often choose to buy organic goods, which still have a lot value. smaller share, to pack and sell the usual products separately. “
More competition from other countries
When asked where the biggest challenges lie, different answers came from different corners of the world. “The market has not had the big challenges in recent years because there was more demand than supply for most products. Trade was therefore really good. But in recent years there has been more pressure on prices, partly due to competition from others countries. “So there will be a little more challenge in the market. And when it comes to cultivation, it is always full of surprises. We are still learning and that makes it interesting. “
Sylvia said there is still some work to be done in Kenya to balance supply and demand. “There are a lot of NGOs doing a great job. They have taught growers about organic production. But there is a big gap because there is little support from retailers for organic products. We need to look for ways in which growers can sell their products., so we get the money in the pockets of the growers. ”
The situation is different in Indonesia, where Bapak Untung’s company itself grows products, but also buys products from other cultivation companies and sells them to supermarkets. “We work with fair trade,” he says. “Prices are set in agreement between grower and buyer. It gives growers more financial security.” He says that people are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of organic farming and organic products, and that there are good prospects for the market.