Bertken de Leede is the business advisor of January for the Small Farmers, Big Deal Campaign! She shares with us how in the food sector sustainability programs can lead to rock solid profits.
Slow tea with exciting taste from the highlands
Bertken: “Many tea experts or companies do not even know that Nepal is producing tea. Nepal hosts some of the worlds better tea plantations in my opinion. Why is tea from Nepal so special? It is often cultivated on the slopes of the Himalaya. Most tea that we drink in the Netherlands is cultivated from tropical, lower lying areas. Tea that is grown on a higher altitude, say 1800 to 2000 meter, develops a bit slower. This results in tea with very distinct characteristics. Tea experts are very enthusiastic about the resulting taste.
Global trends show that the consumption of tea is growing worldwide, as well as the consumption per capita. Tea is starting to get more and more accepted as an alternative for coffee or other hot beverages. Agriterra is expanding its presence in Nepal amongst others because we see a lot of potential in tea. But it is quite a challenge to set up a functioning trade chain from the Himalayas to your cup of tea in the Netherlands. So, we’re investing in tea cooperatives to make Nepalese tea a proper export product. We’re proud to help Nepal make a success of this commodity.”
Tea business and Corporate Social Responsibility
“An example of our work to promote tea export is our cooperation with MAAS, a Dutch coffee and tea machine business. MAAS was interested in sourcing an exclusive tea brand for their premium segment directly from Nepalese farmers. Agriterra connected MAAS to Tinjure tea cooperative in Eastern Nepal. They started their own tea processing two years ago, all by themselves but were quite far removed from regular logistical channels. Without Agriterra, MAAS would have probably never found these organized farmers.
MAAS has a sustainability programme that entails the programme ‘Impact@Origin’, which means they are investing in value addition at the sourcing location in Nepal. After being introduced by Agriterra to the tea cooperative and conducting jointly a company assessment (or audit), MAAS and Agriterra supported this cooperative in improving improve production and their logistic process. This process guarantees the right quality supply and a decent price for the Nepalese tea farmers. MAAS covers the cost for international certification, which is a relatively high investment for the cooperative. Agriterra has facilitated this process, linked MAAS with the right persons and built a connection with the national tea cooperatives federation. Agriterra continues to support the cooperative with training and advisory services.
MAAS’s involvement in Nepal can be considered a hybrid: it is part of their sustainability programme and at the same time an investment in rock solid business. As said; Nepal produces good tea, so they expect their business to profit from it. Working with Agriterra is a good way to ensure reliable contacts and an introduction to the relevant network; on the spot presence to coach the cooperative in realising a stable supply of high quality primary agricultural materials as well as operationalize on a company’s social responsibility (CSR) program.”
Extensive knowledge of the agricultural field
“A company that is looking for sourcing of a specific agricultural commodity can work with Agriterra because of our huge network of cooperatives. We have been in Nepal since 2006, so over a decade. What is relatively unknown about our work is that we visit and are in touch with a lot more cooperatives than those that qualify for a direct partnership with Agriterra. Our entry process is quite strict to enable the growth of the highest quality and most motivated cooperatives. We maintain an extensive registry of those cooperatives that could in the future comply our with standards. And we work with federations of cooperatives, supporting them in providing quality services to the members.
We have established a small liaison office in Kathmandu with a great team of both Dutch and Nepalese business advisors. I’m based in the Netherlands so I’m not always able to connect with our Nepalese clients on a face to face base. Many of our clients visit the office for a cup of tea to chat a bit or they seek contact by phone. I think that this is very important because personal networking increases the bond and trust that Nepalese organisations have in Agriterra. You can also get in touch directly with our Nepalese office for current information and opportunities on the agricultural markets. If your company is interested in sourcing of, say, oranges from Nepal, call Willem or Trijan from our Kathmandu office and they’ll sort it out.”
Last week, Bertken shared with us why advice and training is often more important for development of local cooperatives than development aid. Next week, Bertken will share some background and tips on doing business in Nepal.