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Agriculture biologique en Martinique

 | 
Martine François
, 
Roland Moreau
, 
Bertil Sylvander

Synopsis and recommendations

Question 2. Survey of organic farming (around the world, in the tropics and in Europe, France and Martinique)

Texte intégral

Organic farming around the world

1Traditional farming and ecological farming are by far the most common types of farming practised around the world, and they feed a high proportion of the world's population. Certified organic farming is a minor or marginal mode of production, but is increasing steadily in the tropics, Europe and France.

2The growth of certified organic farming in the tropics is based on exports to the richest countries (particularly the USA, Japan and Europe) and by the strong purchasing power of the local urban classes.

3In Europe, the OF sector's growth varies from country to country. Organic farming accounts for as much as 10 % of UAA in some countries. Growth is modest in France, which lags behind other European countries (e.g. Germany, Italy and Austria). In Martinique, despite genuine potential, there has been no increase in certified OF recently. However, a significant number of farmers described themselves as organic farmers in the farm census and can therefore be considered sympathetic to this mode of production.

A mode of production on the increase in more than 100 countries

4Certified organic farming is practiced in more than 100 countries and, according to IFOAM, occupies more than 24 million hectares of UAA around the world. It is not a marginal phenomenon, but a type of agriculture that has been expanding steadily for more than 10 years and is increasingly finding its place on markets and among forms of farming in many countries.

5According to IFOAM, citing data from a survey conducted by SÖL (SÖL Association (Stiftung Ökologie und Landbau – Germany) in 2004, 41.8 % of the world's land area under organic farming is in Oceania and 24 % in Latin America. Europe lies third, with 23 %.

6In Australia/Oceania, most of this land is devoted to extensive beef production. In Latin America, the land area under organic farming is growing very fast, but starting from very low levels. In Europe, more than 5.5 million hectares – over 2 % of UAA – are under organic farming.

7Farm size varies widely, and depends on the type of land use. Less than half of the world's OF land area is under crops, the rest being used for extensive grazing or forestry. Extensive livestock grazing is the most rational choice in dryland areas, where it is practiced on large estates, whereas organic crop farms are generally small. Most OF in Australia/Oceania is extensive grazing on large estates, while in Europe and Latin America farms are smaller. The distribution of OF land area and numbers of OF farms worldwide is shown in graph 1.

8The most striking examples in the Caribbean are probably Cuba, where the embargo has spurred the development of organic farming, and the Dominican Republic, which is currently the world's largest exporter of organic bananas, with output of 44,000 tonnes in 2000, after a year of strong growth which saw organic output exceed conventional production.

9In Europe, the area under OF increased by more than 24.5 % between 1995 and 2000. Percentages of UAA under organic farming vary widely from country to country and are over 5 % in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Austria. Greece, Portugal and Spain have shown strong growth rates from a low base. Growth was most rapid in the UK and Italy.

Graph 1 – Percentage of UAA and certified organic farms in Europe

Graph 1 – Percentage of UAA and certified organic farms in Europe

Source: Niggli et al., FIBL, 2003

Organic farming in France: modest growth

10In France, growth of OF is monitored by the Observatoire National de l'Agriculture Biologique (ONAB). France was the leading organic producer in the 1970s and 1980s, but has gradually been overtaken by other European countries that took early measures to support the development of OF. A multi-year plan to develop organic farming (the PPDAB), drafted in December 1997 by agriculture minister Louis Le Pensec, set ambitious targets for the development of organic farming and funds were earmarked to support this development. European, national and regional credits (plans d'action régionaux concertés, or PARC BIO) enabled steady growth. The PPDAB highlighted the need to support the development of organic production and set the budget commitment at "1 franc of support for 1 franc of conversion". Alongside this public investment, industry operators, large and small, made the effort to adapt so as to offer organic products to consumers. Supermarket chains Carrefour, Monoprix and Auchan followed the trend, with a view to making a return on their investment in terms of sales while also enhancing their image.

11In 2002 the total area under organic farming increased 23 % to 517,965 hectares, accounting for 1.75 % of UAA in France, but this percentage is still low compared with other European countries. The contrats territoriaux d'exploitation [five-year departmental subsidies to help farmers convert or modernise their farms] sparked a significant increase in farmland conversions to OF, which dropped off after the plans were discontinued in August 2002.

Graph 2 – Number of organic farms and organic UAA in France since 1995

Graph 2 – Number of organic farms and organic UAA in France since 1995

Source: l'Agriculture biologique française, chiffres 2002, Ed. Agence Bio, 2003

12In 2003, member of parliament Martial Saddier reviewed progress on OF in a report for the prime minister. Mr Saddier noted that, compared to other European countries, the level of organic agricultural research was low in France relative to its farming potential. French organic farmers still receive less support than those in other European countries that have invested in the development of organic farming. The level of assistance varies within Europe, and France is not one of the countries that encourage organic farming the most. French regulations on OF, more stringent than European regulations, make it harder to practise organic livestock farming in France than in other European countries. In short, unlike some of its neighbours, France is not creating a favourable environment for the rapid development of organic production.

Martinique: relatively small area under certified OF

13Bio des Antilles is an association of certified organic farmers in Martinique. Founded by three pioneers in 1998, it now has 18 members, including farmers in the process of converting their farms. Bio des Antilles is also in contact with farmers who want to convert to OF, for whom a preliminary survey is in progress. Production currently focuses on fruit trees, Caribbean food crops, medicinal plants and flowers. Twelve members are registered with the Direction de l'Agriculture et de la Forêt (DAF) for a total area of 42.93 hectares (according to DAF notification 2002). The total area under OF or in the process of conversion in Martinique fell from 83.77 hectares (13 farmers) in 2001 to 42.93 hectares (13 farmers) in 2002. This sharp drop was mainly due to the compulsory liquidation of two banana farms, which accounted for 46.93 hectares. These figures put Martinique well below the French average in terms of the percentage of UAA used for OF (0.13 % compared with a French average of 1.75 %).

Table 9 - Certified organic farming in Martinique

Table 9 - Certified organic farming in Martinique

Note * Source: Notification DAF 2002

Number of organic farmers and area under organic farming in Martinique

14Martinique's organic farmers sell their produce directly on local markets (especially the organic market in Saint-Joseph), and export in market niches (e.g. flowers). One farmer also sells to supermarket chains, but does not fetch a higher price than he would through CF.

Graph 3 – Number of organic farmers and organic UAA in Martinique

Graph 3 – Number of organic farmers and organic UAA in Martinique

OF movement in Martinique not limited to certified OF

15In the 2000 farm census In Martinique, 243 farmers said they practised “organic farming” (139 of these said they were in the process of converting). These farmers can be considered to be sympathetic to the concept of OF. However, only 13, or around 5 % of the 243, are officially certified and registered with the DAF. Most of these farmers belong to Bio des Antilles, whereas another association, Orgapéyi, has non-certified organic farmers as members.

16This situation may suggest that farmers misunderstand the rules of organic farming, or equate “traditional” farming with “organic” farming, and/or lack interest in OF certification, a procedure that can seem too expensive or bureaucratic for small farmers. However, conversion subsidies can only be obtained if there is an actual conversion, with due declaration. Farmers who do not register with the DAF are not entitled to aid. In this way opportunities to develop OF may be missed.

Markets for certified organic produce around the world

Markets for certified organic produce enjoy steady, lasting growth around the world

17According to the FAO, sales of organic produce account for between 1 % and 2 % of sales of food and drink products around the world. The market in certified organic products is small but has been growing steadily for more than 10 years, though with periods of slowdown or fluctuations on some products in some countries. This growth can be considered to be a stable trend, not just a passing fad.

18Medium-term growth rates are estimated at between 10 % and 25 % depending on the country. Signs of slowdown in growth (from +20 % per year to +10 % per year) appeared in 2002-2003 on some European markets, although the experts were unable to tell whether this was a passing fluctuation or a genuine adjustment.

19Market growth in developed countries offers new opportunities and attractive prices for farmers, especially for tropical and off-season produce. It is this growth that is driving organic production in developing countries, mainly geared to export. In some developing countries – such as Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt and Jordan – a market for organic produce is now emerging in urban areas.

20For bananas – an important crop for Martinique – organics demand is expanding, with three main markets – North America, Europe and Japan -each of which is developing its own system of certification. The European market has grown faster than the US market, from 13,000 tonnes in 1998 to 42,500 tonnes in 2001, i.e. a tripling of demand, and 1 % of banana consumption. Consumption in Europe has increased in step with the growth of certified organic production in the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Ecuador. Strong, sustained growth rates suggest that supply is the limiting factor for the expansion of the market in organic bananas, but producer prices will probably fall as the quantities available on the market increase.

21Organic sugar, for direct consumption or for use in a large number of prepared foods and drinks, is no exception to this trend. Most of the organic sugar sold in the world is cane sugar. The main obstacle to expansion of the organic sugar market is limited supply. This situation is generating high prices, but they will not necessarily remain high, since new organic sugar producing countries are appearing on the market.

Highly variable price premiums

22According to the literature, consumer price premiums for organic products over conventional products vary widely. French consumers pay between 30 % and 200 % more for an organic product over a conventional product. Producer prices are between 0 % and 80 % higher than equivalent nonorganic products.

23Some producers are unable to promote their products as organic. This is the case for some dairy farmers in France and some beef cattle farmers in Austria. In such cases, only subsidies for environmental conservation can offset the extra costs of organic production. That is the aim of “aid to continue farming”, which continues after the conversion period. This aid exists in some European countries, but not in France.

24When the trading channel explicitly sells the product as “organic”, producers are paid more than for the equivalent conventional product. In Dominica in 2001, producer prices for organic bananas were 46 % higher than for conventional bananas.

25Production costs are frequently, though not always, higher for organic produce owing to lower yields, higher labour costs and greater risk of losses due to disease. The processing of small, dispersed volumes and the need to keep organic and conventional products separate during transport and storage generate extra collection, processing and logistics costs. Organic farming allows savings on some items (veterinary expenses, medicines, etc.), but these usually do not compensate for the extra costs.

26Prices vary more for organic products than for conventional products. The excess of demand over supply often generates high market prices but, with the low absolute volumes marketed, can cause price fluctuations and variations that are problematic for producers.

27In this emerging market, downstream operators, particularly the supermarket chains and industrial processors for whom organic products are one way to diversify, are still forming their strategies. In the years immediately following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, supermarket chains all declared their support for organic farming. Since then, public anxiety over BSE has faded. Supermarket chains and industrial groups are still assessing the place of organic products in relation to other official signs of quality. Organic markets and shops specialising in organics are recording sales growth, though less than the supermarket chains' organics shelves.

28Organic production is more closely related to natural cycles than conventional production. This results in seasonal variations that can generate surpluses in some periods and shortages in others. Consumer and producer prices, and profitability for the producer, therefore vary according to the season.

29All in all, price differences are extremely variable, depending on the product (with the extreme cases of organic milk in France and organic meat in Austria, which bring the producers no price supplement at all), the season (vegetables in periods of overproduction), the distribution chain (short chains often allow for higher prices), and time (e.g. downstream operators change their strategy and renegotiate contracts on terms unfavourable to producers).

30Consequently, and in particular for Martinique, the potential of the local market and direct sales offer the greatest market stability. Markets that are more subject to competition (long product chains involving supermarket chains or exports) are more vulnerable to fluctuation, which can harm producers by levelling prices for organic produce down to those for conventional produce, unless it has special features (old varieties of vegetables, flavour, etc.).

Consumers buy organic because it's "healthy" and "natural"

  • 1 Produits péyi: Creole for "produits du pays", i.e. produce of the region.

31Organic products belong to a "product universe" that incorporates a whole set of "new consumer expectations" – healthy food, environmental conservation, home-grown food and social justice. Organic products cater at least partly to all these new expectations. But “farmhouse” products, "produits péyi"1 and other local products (particularly those with a protected designation of origin), produce sold directly by farmers, "superior quality" products (the Red Label in France), smallholder produce and produce from integrated farming systems also respond to these consumer expectations and could substitute for organics in some segments (see Table 10 below).

Table 10 - New consumer expectations: organic products and substitutes

Table 10 - New consumer expectations: organic products and substitutes

32Within this universe, organic produce offers consumers "healthy, natural" products, with an official guarantee for certified organics.

33Consumer expectations are for healthier products (meaning "better for your health") and organic products respond particularly well to this expectation. According to a survey conducted by Agence Bio in November 2003 on a representative sample of the French population, 85 % of French people think organic products are more natural because they are grown without chemicals and 79 % think they are healthier. These percentages rise to 98 % and 96 % respectively in the responses from consumers of organic products.

34IFS produce also partly meets these expectations, but it is not well known. In France, flavour is also an important reason why consumers buy organic produce. According to the same survey, 59 % of French people think organic produce tastes better. This percentage rises to 84 % in the responses from consumers of organic products.

35Consumers are also concerned about the environment, but much less so in France than in other European countries. Organic produce, IFS produce and home-grown produce (linked to regional development, landscapes, local varieties/breeds, etc.) all meet this expectation. All the studies conducted in France indicate that environmental conservation is not the main reason why French consumers buy organic. Only around 10 % of consumers of organic products cite environmental conservation as the main reason for buying organic products. Nevertheless 84 % of French people completely or mostly agree that organic products help to protect the environment.

36There is also a desire to reconnect products to a local area, a territory and a food identity. Farmhouse products, PDO products and produce used in the traditional local cuisine meet this expectation, whether or not they are organic. PDO products have characteristics that link them to the particular local area they come from. Martinique is already present on this sector with a PDO for Martiniquan rum. The market for PDO products is also expanding, as a result of growing consumer interest and the increasing number of products obtaining PDO labels. The use of these quality labels can have a decisive impact on a region's agricultural development, particularly in the case of disadvantaged farming areas. Within the framework of a territorial development policy, Martinique could also apply for PDO status for emblematic products of the Creole garden (pigeon pea, West Indian pumpkin, chayote, local livestock, etc.). Existing examples of French PDO plant products include the Ile de Re potato, Puy lentil, Nyons olive oil and the Chasselas de Moissac dessert grape.

37More broadly, every region has its own gastronomic and culinary heritage, which is part of its cultural identity. These products meet the "qualitative" expectations of local consumers, keen to return to their dietary roots, and of tourists eager to sample the local cuisine. The Conservatoire National des Arts Culinaires inventoried the gastronomic heritage of each region of France, including Martinique. Typical Martiniquan dishes are prepared with such products as yams, plantain bananas, West Indian pumpkin and cabri-goat. Using local produce makes the dish even more "typical", but if local produce is scarce, imports are used.

38These consumer expectations exist in Martinique, France, Europe and around the world, but vary from region to region. Globalisation is causing a loss of identity, which in return is spurring people to seek an identity through food, which gives rise to market segments in specific products. This is not a new trend: it was already observed in the 1980s and is still continuing.

39The niche in products that offer "social justice" is mainly occupied by fair trade products, but the concept of “fair payment for the farmer's labour” can apply to any type of production. The markets for these products are based on complex consumer expectations, related to values and a vision of society.

40Lastly, some consumers view these different expectations as a whole. They link health to traditional lifestyle, which in turn is related to concepts of local territory, nature and environment. This approach is underpinned by a growing demand for meaning, ethics, transparency – even morality. There is a strong convergence here with the organic farming principles set out by IFOAM.

41In this sense, OF can act as a “spearhead” to restore consumer confidence in agriculture in general.

Organic markets and direct sales

42The principles promoted by IFOAM encourage the creation of a direct link between consumers and producers through local sale of organic produce. Direct selling means that more of the value added goes to the farmer, whereas in long marketing chains most of the value added is absorbed by the food industry and the distribution sector. Consequently direct sales in organic produce are increasing, at the farm, at markets and through “baskets” delivered to consumers.

43Supermarket chains have conquered a major share of the market since organic farming took off since the 1990s, but all studies (INRA/GRET, Agence Bio, CTIFL) agree that supermarkets are not the place where most consumers purchase organic fruit and vegetables. According to Agence Bio, only 34 % of consumers of organic products buy their fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, compared with 40 % at markets, 8 % in specialist organic shops, and 12 % elsewhere (including direct sales).

44Since the volume of organic products produced in Martinique is currently very limited compared with demand and is mainly focused on plant products, the priority should be on developing this form of marketing. The most common forms of direct selling for organic produce are at regular markets, on-farm, through “baskets” and at organic farmers' markets. These forms of selling already exist in Martinique.

45A new type of "contract" between consumers and farmers is developing in France and around the world. In France it operates through the AMAP smallholder-consumer associations. The AMAP idea is to create a direct link, and solidarity, between smallholders and consumers. Consumers commit long-term to supporting a farmer and buying his produce. They pay a subscription fee, which entitles them to a share of the farmer's harvest. The consumer thus bears some of the farmer's burden in the event of a poor harvest. With a smaller number of intermediaries, the consumer benefits from relatively low prices compared with the same products purchased through long marketing chains. This concept is developing in many European countries, in the USA and Japan. An international conference was held on this theme in France at the end of 2003.

46These forms of direct sales go easily with "participatory certification". The produce concerned is mainly OF and EF produce from small farms. In these forms of selling, it is the direct relationship with the farmer that assures the consumer of the product's quality.

47However, this mode of marketing is insufficient for selling large volumes. For large and medium-sized farms, therefore, the longest marketing channels, particularly those involving the supermarket chains, can be used profitably. Larger quantities can be sold, but producer prices are generally lower.

Public procurement can stimulate organic production

48School and workplace canteens can create a significant market for organic products. Several cities in Europe are developing organic food initiatives in school and workplace canteens. The city of Vienna in Austria is developing an ambitious policy of purchasing organic produce for canteens. This action is part of a broader policy of "sustainable" public procurement that includes energy-saving and recycling. In the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, purchase of organic produce for school canteens is mandatory. In the UK, hospitals offer organic products. In France, several arrondissements of Paris and numerous rural municipalities, especially in the south of France, offer organic meals in school canteens. In Lorient, the university refectory serves organic meals every day.

49The additional cost generated by the introduction of organic produce in school meals has been studied in many cases, particularly in Lorient. The extra costs can be eliminated by offering an organic meal with four components instead of the five used in meals prepared with conventional ingredients, and replacing meat by vegetable proteins once a week. The additional cost also varies depending on whether the operation is occasional (high extra cost) or regular (reduced extra cost). The Centre d'Initiatives et de Valorisation de l'Agriculture en Milieu rural (CIVAM) in Le Gard region has launched an “eat organic” operation, with subsidies for municipalities that want to implement such actions in rural areas, where producers and consumers are close to each other.

50A strong policy of public procurement stimulates organic production.

The market for organic produce in Martinique

Features of the local market in Martinique

51Food consumption in Martinique is highly dependent on imports and makes little use of local farm produce, with the notable exception of market garden produce (mainly tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber), for which local produce covers 76 % of local needs. For fruit, the rate is 57 %. Fruit grown in Martinique competes with imports of tropical fruit from the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Cuba. Locally raised livestock meets a much smaller fraction of local needs. Output remains low because imported frozen meat is much cheaper. The market share of local meat is 45 % for beef/veal, 30 % for pigmeat, 13 % for sheep and goat meat and 8 % for poultry. Local fishing – which is traditional and small-scale – covers most local fish consumption (88 %).

52These facts may underpin a perception by some Martiniquans (notably Orgapéyi and consumer groups) of a loss of control over food, which consumers are trying to counteract by purchasing food more closely linked to the local area, at least for festive occasions. All studies stress that local produce (fruit, vegetables and meat) is highly appreciated by Martiniquan consumers. Farmhouse products, local meat and produce sold directly by farmers already fetch high prices. A study by the Association Martiniquaise Interprofessionnelle de la Viande (AMIV), conducted in January 2004 on a representative sample of the Martiniquan population, showed that more than 90 % of Martiniquans find that local meat (beef/veal, sheep and goat's meat and poultry) is fresh, tasty, nutritious and healthy, compared with only one Martiniquan in three who associates those qualities with imported meat. Local meat, whether organic or not, already enjoys an excellent image in Martinique – which is an obstacle for farmers hoping to sell organic products at higher prices.

53The discovery of chlordecone in soils and concentrations of this toxin in tubers grown in contaminated soils, making them unfit for consumption, is raising food safety concerns in Martinique. This could stimulate purchases of organic products in the same way as the BSE crisis in Europe. However, for organic products to reassure consumers, there needs to be a recognised certification system.

54The development of local markets for organic products will need to be based on two different systems. The "AB" organic label and the official certification process are justified for long product chains, particularly for supermarkets, whereas for short product chains, another form of certification and/or the development of ecological farm produce would be more appropriate.

55But organic and ecological farmers in Martinique will have to undergo some form of certification, whether "official" or "participatory", if they intend to pass on the extra production costs to the consumer, i.e. sell their organic products at higher prices than conventional products.

56The main market for food in Martinique is the local population, which accounts for more than 90 % of food purchases (by volume and number of people). The size of this market is nevertheless limited by the small population: 386,000. Tourists account for less than 10 % of the food consumed (based on number of days' stay). Moreover, part of the food market for tourists is captive: tourists on cruises are dependent on their tour operators and those who have booked accommodation with meals included depend on the restaurant at the hotel where they are staying.

57However, for some highly specific products, the tourist market is promising and could significantly boost local demand. This is the case for melons, for which the local market absorbs significant quantities: 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes of melon can be sold every year at prices equivalent to export prices.

58One company that specialises in importing dietary and organic products sells only imported products in its shops, because it has never managed to buy fresh organic produce from local farmers. Attempts have been made, but producers prefer to sell directly to consumers. A hypermarket that sells organic products recorded a 45 % increase in sales in 2002. Farmers in Bio des Antilles sell their products on the organic market in Saint-Joseph, which is held once a fortnight. Farmers in Orgapéyi sell their organic produce directly on an itinerant market and one fixed market.

59There is no doubt that the principles of organic farming meet the expectations of a proportion of Martiniquan consumers for "healthy, natural" products, home-grown Martinique produce, and social justice. Indicators on the existing market show that there is demand for organic products in Martinique, but these indicators are partial and are based on the perceptions of stakeholders in the organic sector in Martinique. They do not address the issue of market size or acceptable prices for consumers and distributors.

60Niche markets also offer potential for some farms. Individual farmers and groups of farmers need to analyse their area or farm to identify opportunities to develop, which could include farm tourism, discovery tours of the local environment combined with organic farming, organic farming in association with an organic restaurant, or supplying products to certain tour operators.

Exports: innovation and complementarity with the local market

61The experience of 30 years of diversification in Martinique shows that the same potential and limitations apply to all Martiniquan export products, namely:

  • Martinique has the potential to export top-end organic products, or in market niches, but will have trouble positioning itself in the market for ordinary organic products (sugar and bananas). Because of high production costs, products must be offered on “pioneering” niches, which will subsequently be abandoned when the innovation spreads and competition from neighbouring countries develops (rare varieties, high-quality processed products, typical Martiniquan products, partnerships with distribution chains, seed, etc.). Research resources need to be mobilised behind development to anticipate the next niche before a foreseeable offensive from the competition. The inertia of the organic production system (conversion time, change of production system, etc.) is a hindrance.

  • The absorption capacity of local markets, as a complement to exports, is decisive to ensure the viability of the organic sector and stabilise the trading system. The local market in fresh or processed products can absorb products of non-exportable quality and surplus output. It can also ease temporary problems on export markets and the period of conversion to a new production system).

  • Evaluation of demand (local and export) and its translation into contracts, commitments and joint actions with processing units, distributors, etc., make it possible to tailor production to the market. This requires at least a market survey, and perhaps also efforts to enter into contractual commitments with operators downstream in the chain before developing production or during the development stage.

62Bananas are Martinique's leading export product. To sell organic bananas from Martinique, a product chain needs to be created through partnership between producers and distributors. Currently the market suffers from a supply shortage, but the lack of technical control of product quantity and quality (appearance, homogeneity and regularity) limits the capacity to market products.

63The supply shortage would appear to give sellers an advantage. However, experience with other products shows that, if that advantage decreases, the partnership relationship disappears from negotiations with buyers, in particular the large retail chains and agro-industrial groups. The buying culture then puts strong pressure on prices with an emphasis on strictly defined quality criteria. These factors, and a possible slowdown in growth on European markets, limit the export potential for organic bananas from Martinique.

64The minimum threshold for a Martiniquan organic banana sector to survive is 300 tonnes per year. This threshold is calculated on the basis of one shipment per fortnight, the minimum required to ensure a continuous presence on the market, since the minimum quantity of organic products that can be sent is one container (to ensure that organic and non-organic products are kept separate during transport). Significantly lower labour costs for organic banana production in competitor countries, particularly the Dominican Republic, will eventually force Martinique to position itself on high value-added products, specific distribution channels or market niches.

65Production of sugar cane for export would appear not to be worth considering. Although the world market is in deficit, the emergence of new producers is already pushing prices down. Martiniquan sugar would not be competitive on the export market, except in market niches where the Martinique origin could be promoted.

66By contrast, exports of flowers, aromatic and medicinal herbs and perfume crops do offer potential. Some farmers in Bio des Antilles are already developing these crops.

Consequences of production and market factors

Build on existing trends to develop the sector

67The technical requirements of organic production limit the quantities produced and to some extent determine the products farmed, independently of consumer demand. The problem of the market does not exist in isolation, but in conjunction with production constraints. Organic farming involves both producing what sells (as far as possible) and selling what is produced (owing to technical production requirements). Organic farming generally involves growing a variety of crops, whereas consumers tend to prefer particular products that sell in large quantities, such as tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.

68In addition, the markets accessible to farmers depend on how numerous they are and their organisational and marketing skills.

69To date there are only 12 certified organic farmers and 42 hectares of certified organic UAA in Martinique. The potential that farmers have already fulfilled in certified OF involves direct local sales of Caribbean food crops, market garden produce, tree fruit and small livestock meat, either on-farm, to neighbours or on markets. The exploitation of market niches that suit the characteristics of each farm has seen the emergence of a variety of initiatives: flowers, medicinal plants, rare plants and fruit, etc.

70Many farmers feel close to organic farming even though they are not involved in a process of official certification. They describe themselves as organic farmers in the farm census and/or are members of Orgapéyi. Although the practices of these farmers do not necessarily meet all the specifications of organic farming, they represent a base on which a policy for developing organic farming or ecological farming could be built in Martinique.

71Consequently, the development of organic farming and organic markets would be gradual, eventually leading to a form of certification for farms practising OF or EF, but starting with dialogue with farmers likely to be involved in developing production.

72The market development strategy should build on existing trends and offer support for farm production and marketing by increasing the number of farmers, providing technical support for farmers interested in conversion, technical research, support for product promotion, fairs, appropriate forms of certification, etc.

Mobilise public initiatives to develop local markets

73Market forces alone are not sufficient to enable organic farming to fulfil its potential for the environment and society. A public policy of support for its development is needed and could focus on markets.

74Market support through public procurement, particularly for school canteens, is already in place in many European and French towns. A similar system could be introduced gradually in Martinique, and could concern organic, ecological, local and farmhouse products with the aim of local development.

75A strong public initiative to develop organic sugar cane could be of major interest. Sugar is an emblematic product, connected to Martinique's history and cultural heritage. As an ingredient in punch it is also a highly visible product for tourists, which makes it ideal as a promotional product, linking environmentally-sound development to Martinique. Consequently, the conversion of the Galion refinery's sugar cane plantations to organic sugar, and the conversion of the refinery itself, warrant consideration. The first stage would be to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study. A market survey would be needed to determine the acceptable price of the product for distributors and restaurant owners.

A suitable form of certification to differentiate organic produce on the local market

76There is no doubt that the development of organic and/or ecological produce markets needs to be underpinned by a stringent and transparent form of certification. Certification protects producers (fraud prevention), justifies production costs and consequently consumer prices, and differentiates the product on markets. In Martinique, where more than half of farms sell their products directly with an “authentic local” or “home-grown” image that overlaps with that of organic products, differentiation is essential for farmers if they want to offset the extra costs of organic production through a higher consumer price than conventional products.

77However, there is a major discrepancy in Martinique between the number of farmers who are “sympathetic” to organic farming and the number that are officially certified for OF by a European certifying body. Specific features of Martinique with respect to certification therefore need to be discussed.

78Official certification by a European certifying body raises various problems and is extremely costly in this ultraperipheral zone.

79The public authorities could encourage group certification as promoted by IFOAM, and/or participatory certification. This would make it possible to certify a broad range of products, which would spur market development. The process could start with supporting research and discussion of these issues with farmers, consumer groups and product chain operators.

80Martinique could also take part in discussion groups organised by IFOAM on these issues. Dialogue with the minister for agriculture could help obtain exemptions or adjustments in the regulations to take the specific features of organic farming in tropical zones into account (tissue-cultured nursery plants, anticoagulants, seed, etc.).

Concentrate on developing the local market, based on a market survey

81To significantly increase organic production and avoid disappointment for farmers, a market survey on organic products in Martinique is warranted. It would be designed to determine whether consumers and distributors would be prepared to pay more for an organic product, and under what conditions.

  • 2 Produits péyi: Creole for "produits du pays", i.e. produce of the region.

82This market survey should first position organic products in relation to products they might replace (in particular "produits peyi"2, produce sold directly by farmers, market garden produce, local or imported traditional Creole products, quality meat, etc.). It should also clarify the particular qualities that consumers expect of organic products and what guarantees would assure them of those qualities (official organic label and/or participatory certification).

83The issue of an acceptable price for organic products is particularly important (price sensitivity): the higher cost of organic production and the high proportion of income that Martiniquans already spend on food put pressure on prices. This mainly concerns livestock products (poultry, cabri-goat, etc.), for which Martiniquan and "farmhouse" products already fetch high prices because of strong demand for quality local products. It would also concern organic fruit and vegetables produced by smallholders, because many local smallholders and informal-sector gardeners sell fruit and vegetables direct.

84The study could also identify potential market niches some farmers light exploit, such as organic farming combined with farm tourism, discovery tours of the local environment, organic farming linked to an organic restaurant, or supplying products to particular tour operators.

85This market survey should also investigate opportunities for supplying organic and ecological produce to schools and other public bodies.

Local market potential per product

86For the local market, where farmers are close to consumers, the experts consider that sales of organic and ecological produce will increase. Ecological produce cannot be labelled as "organic", but it can be a more flexible way to encourage farmers' initiatives than OF certification and possibly lead to certification at a later stage.

87By correlating this approach with the technical possibilities and production costs of organic farming in Martinique, development priorities can be identified.

Table 11 - Local market potential by product in Martinique

Table 11 - Local market potential by product in Martinique

88Regarding livestock, the data suggest that the potential of the local market is restricted to products that can be sold to consumers at a negligible price premium compared to non-organic "produits péyi". Given the cost of inputs, organic livestock production should preferably be developed as a complement to crops. The advantage of organic certification for livestock is not obvious at first sight, given its cost and the requirements entailed (particularly for slaughter).

Notes

1 Produits péyi: Creole for "produits du pays", i.e. produce of the region.

2 Produits péyi: Creole for "produits du pays", i.e. produce of the region.

© IRD Éditions, 2005

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