The CSR Risk Checker shows avocado traders what they are up against

The CSR Risk Checker is now available in three languages - Dutch, English and since recently, also in German. This year, almost 20,000 visitors have checked what the risks are of a particular product, branch or country. Fruit and vegetables form part of the list of most-checked products.

Here, we turn the spotlight on the avocado. This is a product that's popularity is increasing rapidly. There is also a continuous search for new countries from which to source this product. We checked the CSR risks in Chile, Colombia, and Peru. We also asked avocado traders about their experiences in these countries.

Avocados have been cultivated in Chile for more than 30 years. This makes this country, along with South Africa, the founder of commercial avocado farming. The CSR Risk Checker shows, among other things, that the rising population and rising demand for certain products are putting pressure on the availability of land.

This could not only lead to significant damage to the environment. Conflicts can also occur. For example, indigenous communities inhabit many areas. If the government does not recognize their rights to ownership and no fair compensation is offered, this could lead to local resistance to projects.

The Belgian company, Special Fruit, has been getting avocados from Chile for years now. “The Chileans are very structured,” says Evy van Gastel. “Cultivation is not very fragmented. There is a clear top five of the biggest and best companies. They have the experience and knowledge. They are also continually investing in things like biodiversity."

"There is, however, the risk that there is still only the limited potential for growth. This is because there is a limited amount of land available. Chile is also further away. Avocados from this country take twice as long to get to Europe as, for example, those from Colombia.” 

As an avocado producing country, Colombia is the ‘new kid on the block.’ Many farmers are switching from growing coffee to cultivating avocados. This is because this product delivers more per saldo. The CSR Risk Checker indicates that Colombia has the second richest biodiversity in the world. More than half of the country is covered in forest.

However, internal conflict has undermined the rule of law. As a result, the pressure on the environment has increased in this South American country. There is deforestation, illegal drug cultivation, as well as illegal mining. The income from the drug trade also ensures that corruption remains a serious problem in Colombia. 

Floris Miedema of Solid Organic Link grows and exports avocados from Colombia. “It is a beautiful country that has endured a lot. The people are resilient and open. The climate is also perfect for avocado cultivation even if the know-how is still lacking. However, drugs remain the biggest threat," he says.

"Anyone can stash a batch of cocaine in your container of avocados. In order to prevent this, we work with suppliers and transporters that are BASC certified. This is a narcotics-control certification. It means that 24/7, everything is recorded on security cameras. This ensures that you know for sure that nothing strange is happening."

The CSR Risk Checker shows that European supermarkets have a lot of clout. They set high environmental and social standards but are, often, not prepared to pay more for this. This means smaller farmers often cannot compete with the large companies. They simply do not have the means to invest in, for example, infrastructure or know-how.

Sander Dijkslag regularly visits Kenya on behalf of his Dutch company, Eosta. “There are many small farmers in Kenya. They have no money for pesticides and are, therefore, often ‘organic by default’.” This provides opportunities but also demands patience. “We can sell these organic avocados for a premium in the Netherlands. You immediately see the impact of this - the Kenyan farmers can suddenly build a better house, their children can go to school, and they can buy themselves a scooter."

What he does find is more troublesome is that there is a horde of small exporters in Kenya. They want to earn a quick buck and so, do not consider the product's integrity or quality. "This has caused a lot of problems on the market. There is bickering about money which gives Kenyan avocados an increasingly bad name."

"Organizations have to be established that serious exporters who are committed to quality can join. You can create a better image with a number of companies. As exporters do not keep to the prescribed rules, their export licenses should be revoked. That will make a real difference."

Do you want to know which international MVO risks you run in your trade activities? Do this (short) test on the CSR Risk Checker.

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