Organic Fair Trade: Business
Émile Noël, creator of organic fair trade programmes
In Mali, sesame is changing lives.
In 2000 Émile Noël created an organic sesame supply chain in the regions northeast of Bamako (Banamba, Sirakorola, Koulikoro, Kolokani) which it oversees in partnership with the OHVN (Office of the Upper Niger Valley), a state agency that supports local agriculture.
Some 10000 organic producers in 171 villages are growing sesame on 9,000 hectares and supplying the oil mill with an average of 1,200 tonnes of seed per year.
Since 2003, the programme has been certified organic fair trade according to the Ecocert ESR standard (Fairness, Solidarity and Responsibility).
Other certified programmes built on the same model produce a variety of inputs for Émile Noël: shea and baobab seeds (also in Mali), as well as hazelnuts (in a village in northern Turkey) and argan (with cooperatives in southwest Morocco).
For Émile Noël, organic fair trade is above all just and fair trade.
Better than a certified industry: an integrated industry. Huilerie Émile Noël is the end user of the organic fair trade sesame produced by the Malian farmers. We created this industry to ensure the safety, transparency and quality of the products we source. The harvest is not traded on the market; rather it is crushed at Pont Saint-Esprit to be used in our range of oils (notably the Organic Fair Trade virgin sesame oil) and cosmetic products, as well as our bulk offer.
Controlling production means respecting the producers. The production of sesame destined for use by Émile Noël is regulated. Every year, the farmers and Huilerie Émile Noël come to an agreement, the former on their farming objectives, defined in an “intention list” and the latter on its volume requirements, which have stabilised at about 1,200 tonnes.
Our approach has never involved nor shall it ever involve intensive farming; similarly there are no fluctuations in quantities at the mercy of international demand. We only have farmers plant what we need, so as not to encroach on the food crops which feed the families and to avoid disrupting traditional crop rotations on the plots.
Income that is guaranteed in the long term. Since the programme began in 2000, Émile Noël has purchased organic sesame from its producer partners in Mali at between 300 and 350 CFA francs per kilo depending on the season.
This amounts to a higher rate of remuneration per harvest than the programme's total promise (minimum guaranteed price: 250 CFA francs); most of the time it is also higher than the seasonal guaranteed price (minimum cycle price).
The programme has stabilised the price of sesame in the region at a level which enables each producers to earn 30% to 70% of their annual income from organic sesame, whereas this crop only accounts for one-third of their farming activity.
A short supply chain that benefits the producer and the consumer.
There is no middleman between us and the Malian producers. We trade with them and they trade with us. We proceed in the same way for our 300 product references which we distribute directly in 1,200 points of sale within the French network of organic retailers and specialists.
The long-term is a winning economic model.
The organic fair trade standards and approach, to which Émile Noël actively contributes, are not without their technical constraints for the oil mill and for producers. The demands of the technical specifications and the assumption of certain costs by Émile Noël (certification, management, etc.) do have an impact on the price of the harvests and the finished product, whether virgin oil or cosmetics.
Unlike short-sighted speculative and commercial approaches that exhaust and devour supply circuits, the profitability of organic fair trade is based on guaranteed and lasting quality: the quality of ties between the producers and the oil mill, who have a relationship of trust, quality of life for families with stable incomes, and quality of seeds for Emile Noël’s products that makes the difference and appeals to and builds loyalty among its customers…