Ukraine: 5th International Central/Eastern Europe and Central Asia Conference
by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 0)
by Gerald A. Herrmann, Organic Services, Germany
The 5th International Conference on the Development of the Organic Sector in Central/Eastern European and Central Asian countries is considered by the participants and organizers to have been a great success. 225 participants from 30 countries attended the conference, which was held from 16-17 April, 2015 in Kiev. “Greening the economy” was the central thread that ran through the programme and the discussions throughout the conference and highlighted the socio-environmental benefits of organic agriculture and its great potential for leveraging a transition to a Green Economy in the agricultural sector. Co-organizer Gerald A. Herrmann, Organic Services, Munich, presents a summarizing report on the event.
Picture (FLTR): Opening panel with Asad Naqvi, Acting Head Green Economy Advisory Services Unit, Economics and Trade Branch UNEP, Switzerland, Dr. Eugene Milovanov, President Organic Federation of Ukraine (2nd), Iaroslav Krasnopolskyi, First Vice-Minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, André Leu, President IFOAM Organics International, Australia and Gerald A. Herrmann, Director Organic Services, Germany. Photo Kai Kreuzer
The conference was opened by Iaroslav Krasnopolskyi, First Vice- Minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, Asad Naqvi, Acting Head Green Economy Advisory Services Unit, Economics and Trade Branch UNEP, Switzerland, André Leu, President IFOAM Organics International, Australia, and the two organizers Dr. Eugene Milovanov, President of Organic Federation of Ukraine, and Gerald A. Herrmann, Director Organic Services, Germany. As well as the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the conference’s main supporter was the European Union under the umbrella of the EaP-Green Programme, which is implemented by UNEP. Preceding the conference, a number of activities had been carried our by external consultants, e.g. Gunnar Rundgren, Grolink, Bo van Elzakker, AgroEco/Louis Bolk and Gerald A. Herrmann and Joern Berger, Organic Services
The conference was organized by the Organic Federation of Ukraine and the international strategy consultancy Organic Services, Germany. Previous conferences were held in Kiev, Ukraine (2008), Tbilisi, Georgia (2009), Astana, Kazakhstan (2010) and Izmir, Turkey (2012) with changing local partners, e.g. Elkana (Georgia), FIEC (Kazakhstan) and ETO (Turkey). Since the inception of the conference in 2008 the organic sector in Ukraine and the region have developed impressively, as was stated by the participants who attended the first conference in 2008.
Picture: Dr. Eugene Milovanov, President Organic Federation of Ukraine and organizer of the conference, Asad Naqvi, Acting Head Green Economy Advisory Services Unit, Economics and Trade Branch UNEP and Iaroslav Krasnopolskyi, First Vice- Minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine: significant opportunities for promoting organic farming
In 2011, UNEP had already conducted scoping studies on the green economy and organic agriculture in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine which revealed that significant opportunities existed for promoting organic farming. In 2014 the country study was updated, a market assessment report on the main export products was written and national workshops were held. At Biofach in 2015, the participation and presentation of selected companies from Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine were supported, and B2B-meetings with interested buyers from Germany and other EU countries were organized. By joining the 5th International Conference, the wealth of information collected could be best communicated. Speakers and participants from six countries from the target region were financially supported so that a broad regional impact was made possible. The EaP-Green Programme will be continued throughout 2015 and 2016 with specific activities for the region. Finally, a follow-up programme was developed and presented as a draft during the conference.
Broad representation of all stakeholder groups of the organic sector
Most significant was the broad representation of all stakeholder groups in the organic sector, ranging from practices in food manufacturing and farming to trade represented by importers and exporters, certification bodies active in the region, ministries and public authorities and other relevant players like NGOs and consultants. Intense discussions during the workshops and the buzz of conservation during the lunch and coffee breaks confirmed the high level of interest in the conference topics. These discussions were fuelled by the great interest in the supply of protein grain and cereals from the region as well as by the lack of clarity about the reasons for residues found in sunflower press cake from Ukrainian sources in November 2014, which triggered EU (e.g. German) competent authorities to block further marketing of press cake and cereals from the same sources, with the EU de-accrediting the certifier concerned. Thus, the participants underlined the fact that the conference was the best meeting place in the region.
Picture: Intense discussions during the workshop and the buzz of conversation during the lunch and coffee breaks confirmed the high level of interest in the conference topics. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Discussion of pesticide contamination
Presentations covered a wide range, from market studies to cases of specific companies. Breakout sessions concentrated on organic legislation, organic markets for grain and oilseeds, quality and integrity and local market development, and they deepened the participants’ understanding of the correlation between organic agriculture and the green economy. The conference programme can be accessed here. Most presentations are published here .
The session on ‘Quality and Integrity’ gave rise to a lively discussion. It was moderated by Hanspeter Schmidt, attorney-at-law (Germany), who is also thanked for this summary. After presentations by Ksenia Gladchenko (Ukraine), Mustafa Akyuz (Turkey), Alexander Lysenko (Germany), Sergiy Galashevskyy (Ukraine), Nikita Kaletkin (Russia) and Andre Leu (Australia) one point of lively exchange concerned the appropriate role of sampling in organic certification. An organic certifier takes samples and has them analyzed; half or even 80 percent of the samples show traces of one or more active substances, with each trace slightly above 0.01 mg/kg. What kind of retrospective clarification is necessary as a preventive means? What are the hotspots of pesticide contamination: conventional neighbours, regional environmental pollution of air and water, lack of care in cleaning equipment, storage facilities and containers or insufficient separation of conventional and organic products? How do you deal with the application of active substances as biocides and not as pesticides? For example in empty storage facilities as opposed to the use of pesticides to protect crops.
Picture: Interested audience: around 225 people took part in the conference. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Difficulties encountered in organic inspection or organic accreditation
The participants pointed further to the fact that the EU Organic Regulations require the identification of such hotspots and the application of the concept of critical control points in a systematic manner: the operator identifies hotspots of contamination and provides for a systematic approach to monitor and to deal with them. A major point was how to monitor the flow of products not only in organic operations but also between them from the field to the organic processors. The majority opinion was that this should be achieved by the private initiative of organic companies and that the organic sector should not wait to have this kind of monitoring of the flow of produce imposed by the legislative initiative of governmental authorities.
Another issue concerned language: organic certification requires that certifiers have a knowledge of the languages in which the operators - farmers traders, and processors - conduct their business. In Ukraine, many documents are in Russian but official documents are in Ukrainian. Organic inspectors with a knowledge of a lingua franca were mentioned as a first step, but not an ideal solution, when details of organic practices are to be discussed with an operator’s staff. Some participants pointed to the difficulties that arise when organic inspection or organic accreditation is carried out in a lingua franca but review documentation of organic operators or certifiers is not in that lingua franca but in the farmers’ local languages.
Picture: Marco Schlüter IFOAM EU discussing with Gerald Herrmann, Organic Services. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Local market development and products
The session on ‘Local market development and products’ was moderated by Joern Berger, senior consultant at Organic Services, who is also thanked for this summary. Natalie Prokopchuk from FiBL, Ukraine, shared experience of problematic issues that have arisen as organics were successfully developed during the seven years she has been responsible for a Swiss-Ukrainian cooperation project. In particular, success on the domestic market was the outcome of addressing emotional and cultural consumer issues. Five other Eastern European and Central Asian countries mainly shared their experience of single products. Tudor Robu presented recent Moldovan experience of the organic conversion of wineries and the impact on varieties and markets this involved. Sanzhar Sultankulov informed participants about a smallholder value chain of dried organic apricots and plums from Kyrgyzstan. Manzura Sultanova depicted how organic cotton is suitable for re-cultivating depleted soils and preventing the expansion of desert in Tajikistan. Ali Ali-Zada presented the development of a commercial organic fertilizer made of vermi-compost in Azerbaijan. Finally, Irakle Davakhshvili pointed out the cost efficiency of the internal control system being implemented at an association of small-scale producers of organic hazelnuts in Georgia.
Picture: Local team at the registration desk. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Organic Agriculture needs partnership of all stakeholders
The session about ‘Organic Agriculture and Green Economy’ was moderated by Asad Naqvi, UNEP and Bo von Elzakker, AgroEco/Louis Bolk, who is thanked for this short report. The session was well attended. There were speakers from Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan, quite different countries in different stages of development. The focus of their presentations was different, but together they gave an all-round picture. The overall conclusion was that organic agriculture can promote the green economy, that it is happening and that it could easily be on a greater scale if the following is kept in mind: have a value chain approach and secure all steps! Therefore the development of organic agriculture cannot be accomplished by single individuals but needs a partnership of all stakeholders who all grow together. It can start with exporting raw materials - processing and added value should come a little later. Legislation is important for national logo/branding and stopping discrimination of organics, but not usually for subsidies. Don’t wait for specific organic programmes or donors. General rural and private sector development programmes are often suitable for organic projects. Stress the relevance for tourism, biodiversity and the national image. Have diverse markets (local, EU, EACU, Asia). Document the impact on the countryside and on the economy in terms of increased incomes, more jobs and access to new markets – these are the most convincing points for all relevant parties!
Picture: The session about ‘Organic Agriculture and Green Economy’ was moderated by Bo von Elzakker, AgroEco/Louis Bolk, and Asad Naqvi, UNEP. Photo Kai Kreuzer
Organic markets for grain and oilseeds
The session on ‘Organic markets for grain and oilseeds’ was moderated by Marco Schlueter, Director IFOAM EU. The report was provided by Lukas Kelterborn, Berater Bio-Handel. Participation was high and the discussions were lively! The presentations by Amos Ramsauer (Germany), Roland Grenzebach (USA) and Lukas Kelterborn (Germany/Romania) focused on the market structure, conditions and the expectations of buyers when dealing with imports. Roland elaborated well the differences between the US market structure and situation compared with the European. All three emphasized that the services and the reliability provided by the seller are often more relevant than the product itself. When it comes to permanence and reliability, this is where business often turns out not to be successful when, for example, quality does not match specifications, lab analyses and certificates are not provided, and logistics and time lines are not met. They continued by saying that buyers often have a problem in finding reliable partners and, once they have found specific suppliers, they in no way want to abandon them but to build a long-lasting relationship. So buyers are somewhat surprised when this same wish is voiced by growers, although they re-negotiate time and again to get a few more euros, often for no realistic gain in the market but with the risk of losing the buyer.
Ion Toncea, Romania, gave an overview of the statistics of production in Romania to show the growing offer and variety of products. Oleksandr Yushchenko, Ukraine, showcased a successful organic farm development with a large acreage. Based on milk production, it also produces significant amounts of cereals which are exported to Switzerland, Germany and some other European countries. He underlined that success is built on reliability and good management. All speakers in the plenary sessions provided inspiring strategic outlooks on the green economy and organic agriculture (Asad Naqvi), the multifunctional benefits (André Leu) but also the hands-on and concrete information, e.g. about the challenges and opportunities for successful organic development in the region (Bo van Elzakker) and the assessment study of the European market for the main organic export products from Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine (Joern Berger). Gerold Rahmann spoke about the contribution of organic farming to sustainability and economic development, Tobias Bandel about a holistic and practical approach for assessing sustainability criteria in farming and along supply chains and finally Gerald A. Herrmann about combating fraud in organic markets – with examples from Bionext Netherlands, Federbio, Italy and Check Organic. Gunnar Rundgren held the closing speech with an inspiring outlook on reshaping the global food system. Anyone interested can visit the website with the presentations.
Picture: Gerald Herrmann presenting methods for combating fraud.
Many supporters made the conference possible
The conference would not have been possible without the support of sponsors and supporters of which FAO, CEI, Swiss Confederation – FiBL, Biofach and USAID AgroInvest Project should be be highlighted. Others, including media support, can be found here. Nearly all speakers, funding travel costs themselves and receiving no honorarium, must be specially thanked. The Organic Federation of Ukraine and Organic Services contributed with some unpaid time to the organization. Both organizers, Dr. Eugene Milovanov, Organic Federation of Ukraine and team (Andriy Konyashin and Mrs. Julia Monakova) and Gerald A. Herrmann with Mrs. Annette Diedrich, Organic Services received warm and appreciative applause by the participants who praised the quality, the information provided and the selection of speakers.
Picture: The Ukraine organisation team for the conference. Photo Kai Kreuzer
The day after the conference, participants went on an excursion to the organic shop Natur Boutique, Maison Blanche and eco-hotel. Most of the day was spent at Galeks Agro, the farm presented by Oleksandr Yushchenko, where they visited production and animal husbandry facilities. As pointed out by participants, it was an impressive example of organic development.
About the EaP GREEN programme
The “Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Neighbourhood” (EaP GREEN) programme aims to support the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries to move towards a green economy by decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation and resource depletion. The six EaP countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The programme is structured around three components: (1) Governance and financing tools for sustainable production and consumption (SCP) and a green economy; (2) Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) accompanying SCP policy implementation; and (3) Demonstration projects. Governments and the private sector are the key target groups of EaP GREEN.
The programme is supported financially by the European Union and other donors and is jointly implemented by four international organizations – OECD, UNECE, UNEP and UNIDO. The total EaP GREEN budget for a period of implementation of 48 months is 12.5 million Euros. Although the programme is regional, many of its activities will be implemented nationally and the results shared in various regional forums.
About the Organic Federation of Ukraine
The Organic Federation of Ukraine pursues the overall goal of promoting the values of the global organic movement, improving the efficiency of agricultural production with the simultaneous development of modern systems, safe for people and technology, while at the same time promoting the organic movement in Ukraine. This includes not only the direct production, processing and export of organic products but also the formation of domestic market consumption and the widespread dissemination of values and organic farming.
About Organic Services
Organic Services is an international strategy and management consultancy specialized in organic food, sustainability and development matters. Services also for the cosmetics market entail market studies, global value chains and sourcing, software-based quality management, the development of standards, certification consultancy, knowledge transfer through expert advice, for example via fairs and conferences, renewable energy and other activities on request.
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