Sharing a platform with Solidaridad at this month’s World Juice Summit in Antwerp, the company announced its plan to strengthen its co-operation with the NGO to make tropical fruit growing more sustainable.
“Achieving a sustainable outcome requires a sector-wide approach and co-operation with other partners in the supply chain. By working this way we hope to open up the fruit juice supply chain and encourage others in the sector to follow suit,” said Marjan Skotnicki-Hoogland, director of Friesland Campina Riedel.
Examining the sustainability of the fruit supply chain, the companies analysed the fruit sector in Mexico (Oranges), Belize (oranges) Brazil (oranges), Ecuador (bananas, passion fruits), Peru (mangoes) and India (mangoes) and said their findings were “disturbing”.
‘Disturbing’ supply chain problems in Brazil, India, South Africa…
For instance, in Brazil they found concerns relating to the position of family farmers and labor rights, in India there are problems with soil erosion, South Africa faces issues of water stress, while in Belize there are labor rights and pesticide problems.
Friesland Campina and Solidaridad said the main problems with orange production in Brazil are (A) Claims of illegal outsourcing to a seasonal workforce (B) Bad working conditions (C) Risk of child labor (D) Loss of biodiversity (E) Family farmers switching to sugarcane (F) The seasonal workforce switching to sugarcane.
Meanwhile, in India, the problems relate to: (A) Lack of formal contracts for seasonal workers (B) Low productivity, lack of knowledge, overuse of pesticides (C) Erosion, aggravated due to climate change (D) High profit margins taken by middlemen (E) Corruption in state-run markets.
While Friesland Campina and Solidaridad warned that there is little room for investment because the juice sector is under financial pressure, they did point to rising demand for juice – for instance, the US Department of Agriculture forecasts that Brazilian orange juice demand will exceed supply this year.
What’s in it for fruit juice brands?
But the partners warned that doing nothing to address supply chain problems could lead to buying problems, low quality/quantity of fruit, dissatisfied consumers, a lack of authenticity and honesty, reputational damage and ongoing social and ecological issues.
Warning against a one-size-fits-all approach, they announced a pilot program that will run in Brazil from 2014-2018. Starting this month it will have a budget of €110,000, with €30,000 already pledged towards this target.
This will explore ways of supporting Brazilian farmers, helping them to improve their production processes and make them more sustainable; a separate 2014-16 project will support seasonal labourers in India.
Urging other companies to get involved, Solidaridad and Friesland Campina said benefits included improved sourcing quantity and quality, compliance with the corporate values consumers demand, better brand equity, supply chain transparency and a reduction in the risk of reputational damage.