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Greece: Biocyclic producer network cooperates with Naturland

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Biocyclic Network, a network of organic farms, embraces nearly 100 small-scale organic family farms that are certified by Naturland. It markets its products via the Organic Marketing & Export Network (O.M.E.N.), which is an association of eight organic projects with a membership of around 800 organic farmers in Greece and Cyprus. They supply mainly oranges, lemons, clementines, vegetables, wine, olive oil, grapes, sultanas and currants. The countries receiving their produce are Germany, Austria, Denmark and Slovenia, and Sweden will soon be added to the list. The Greek organic producers have been affected very little, if at all, by the economic crisis. Their products are becoming increasingly popular. (Picture: Johannes Eisenbach, on the right, talking to Giorgos Erotokritos, who grows grapes for the table in Cyprus)

Under the management of Johannes Eisenbach, the umbrella organization of the producer associations has developed very well in the last ten years and now operates eight projects in different regions of Greece and Cyprus. By systematically introducing biocyclic standards over 15 years ago and by virtue of acquiring Naturland certification in 2010 on account of additional monitoring by Bio.inspecta, O.M.E.N. is one of the few suppliers in the Mediterranean region that is in a position to offer the German wholefood trade syndicated products. (Picture on left: Carline thistles growing at the edge of a field)

The biocyclic guidelines of Adolf Hoops – a pioneer in organic agriculture from Walsrode - were adapted to the Mediterranean region by him and Dr. agr. Johannes Eisenbach from Kalamata. In important aspects, their guidelines go much further than the EU Organic Regulation and consider in particular the interactions between the organically grown crops and the eco-systems that in Greece and Cyprus are in many cases still intact. By specifically increasing humus and creating biotopes with rich biodiversity (picture), their aim is to complete natural life cycles (in Greek: bios + kyklos) and thus to promote the self-healing powers of nature. Moreover, by buying biocyclic organic products, people can help small-scale family farms to stay in business. Adhering to the biocyclic standards also guarantees that products are not exposed to spray drift and that every fruit is traceable right down to the plot where it was grown. (Picture on right: Crops in natural surroundings)

A bio-cyclic points system to assess the degree to which an organic plot is linked to its natural surroundings has the function of identifying whether it might be necessary to create compensatory ecological areas and of making it possible to compare plots by means of a numerical grading. Environmental points are given, for example, if there is an embankment covered with vegetation, a boundary hedge between the plot and a conventional neighbour, sowing green fertilizer plants or keeping organic free-range poultry. If the assessment does not produce enough points, the creation of a compensatory area is recommended in the interest of nature conservation and as a buffer, especially when there is adjacent conventionally managed land.
Approximately 100 organic farmers have now pledged to comply with the strict requirements of the biocyclic standard. They produce mainly citrus fruit, grapes and kiwis. Specially trained front-line agricultural engineers give advice on organic cultivation. The annual special certification process – exceeding the conditions laid down in the EU legally binding organic monitoring – takes into account these specific environmental requirements. A ten-page Green List contains all the permitted production aids plus an explanation. Products that are cultivated to the biocyclic standard are dealt with separately. In the case of grapes, for example, about a third are produced by this method, that is especially in tune with nature. (Picture on right: Johannes Eisenbach on the right, with Georgios Theophanous, the Managing Director of S.E.A.P. Ltd - O.M.E.N.5)

“What’s important is that the greater input by all concerned is appreciated long-term by the customers. Compared with the minimum requirements of the EU Organic Regulation, it takes a much bigger effort on our part to comply with the strict biocyclic guidelines that are in the tradition of the German organic growers’ associations,” Johannes Eisenbach explains. “We’re dealing here in all cases with small family farms whose existence contributes to the protection of an ancient cultural landscape and means the preservation of village social structures that are today under threat,” says Eisenbach. (Picture on left: Oranges in the sorting centre)

A detailed table illustrates the seasonal availability and the anticipated harvest volumes of all the products marketed via the O.M.E.N. export partners. In the case of oranges, the figure is 5,000 t, with 1,300 t for kiwis and 1,200 t for each of seedless sultanas and clementines. But mini-gherkins, cherry tomatoes, long red peppers, rondino zucchini, honey and water melons are also grown for export. Oranges have the longest availability – practically throughout the year – followed by mini-gherkins and long peppers with 9.5 and 8.5 months respectively. 20 % of production is sold in Greece, and 80 % goes for export. (Picture: Availability table winter/spring 2012/2013)

From the O.M.E.N. network headquarters - BNS Biocyclic Network Services - Johannes Eisenbach and his colleagues take charge of everything from cropping to logistics and, without involving any middlemen, the goods are transported by lorry via Patras or Igoumenitsa and the car ferry across the Adriatic to Ancona or Venice. From there they are forwarded via the wholefood wholesaler Biohof Achleitner to the wholesaler Bio-Gast or the organic box supplier Adamah in Vienna. Among the biggest customers for biocyclic products in Germany are Tegut and the producer-consumer cooperative Tagwerk. In Denmark, the Coop consumer cooperative is a customer. In Slovenia the growing organic market is supplied by the partner in Austria. The Czech Republic has so far taken only small volumes. (Picture: Locations of the various O.M.E.N. producer groups)

O.M.E.N. regards its traceability system - called ‘Ariadne’ – as extremely important. All crates are given a number. The system guarantees that the biocyclic fruit remains identifiable and that it can be traced back to the very field where it was produced by entering its number on the internet. The number provides information about the producer, the field, when it was picked, when and where it was packed and even when it arrived in the region where it is sold, and who sold it to the end customer. The internet source also provides useful information about the region, the variety, the producer and, for example, the weather conditions before harvesting or while the product was in transit. (Picture: Explaining the traceability system. See examples of numbers below)

Collaborating with a German travel company, coach tours through several regions of Greece are being planned for November. The main focus is catering for the participants’ interest in bio-cyclic agriculture and the people behind this production method. The scenery, the country and its people and the many places of historical interest will also be included in the programme. (Picture on left: Olive trees)

Scheduled for 2013 are the completion of the new vegetable packaging facility of ASPERSA Ltd. - O.M.E.N.3 - near Chania on Crete and the first sale of early ripening biocyclic grapes in Cyprus (ready from the end of May). They are also thinking about introducing an olive tree sponsorship scheme for the direct marketing of olive oil by leasing olive trees to end consumers, with BNS Biocyclic Network Services taking charge of cultivation, pressing the oil, bottling and transport. (Picture on right: Harvesting long peppers on Crete)

Fruit Logistica: hall 2,1 stand C-04; BioFach: hall 6-174

Traceability system:

Sample numbers from December 2012:

P09009634020048A (biocycl. lemons)
P090AY093020087A (biocycl. clementines)
P09014104010085A (biocycl. juice oranges)



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