The global organic food market is expected to grow 14.59% annually to reach $ 368.94 billion by 2026, according to a report by Report link.
Tapping into this market presents significant opportunities for agribusiness companies who can put in place the right systems and support to meet this growing demand. In Africa, Marck van Esch sees specific potential for Uganda. “It is the fastest growing agricultural sector in the world. Even during Covid-19, the market remained strong, ”he says.
Van Esch’s company Shares Uganda Limited contracts with farmers across the country to grow organic bird peppers, chia and sesame for export to Europe. Additionally, it lists sunflower seeds, beans and fruits as organic products in demand and suitable for production in Uganda.
One of the main challenges for organic production in the country is the negative impact of the government’s indoor residual spraying (IRS) program used to control malaria. If chemicals are sprayed inside the huts where farmers store their crops, it could lead to cross-contamination which would result in the loss of the buyer’s organic certification.
Shares Uganda had to relocate its contract farming center twice over the years when the IRS program was deployed to its area of operations.
“So while there is a demand for organic farming, it is unprotected and many small farmers, and even larger farms, could miss this opportunity,” says Van Esch.
The key is to build local capacity to add value to organic agricultural products before export.
“Most of the final processed organic products that consumers consume come from the Western world. African countries produce virtually no finished certified organic products, and when they do, they are often destined for their national markets, ”he said.
Van Esch recommends starting with partial processing until factories can meet the required standards, and then scaling up.
To be successful with such an enterprise, you have to be pragmatic and flexible, but also persevering, says Van Esch.
“You have to really believe in what you want, hold on to your vision, and not compromise on business ethics, quality and maintenance. This is how you set yourself apart from other suppliers. When you start out, make sure everything is in place; management, quality systems and infrastructure. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver and then disappoint you and your buyers.