The impact of private and public certification schemes and labels on smallholder participation in agricultural trade

M. De Pena
Consumers are increasingly demanding healthy and sustainable food, produced with the greatest care for the environment, preferably organic and consider businesses and governments responsible for making this food available at accessible prices. The EU strategy from farm to fork, and private public certification labels respond to consumer expectations and are based on the principles of control and compliance at farm level, checked by independent certification bodies. Smallholders in this context are faced with a growing number of social and environmental standards set by multiple certification schemes, in a market reality of declining prices and growing costs of production due to climate change and Covid-19. Smallholders are organized in cooperatives to deliver services and support to their members and negotiate better prices and trade conditions. With the aim to improve the income and living conditions of members, smallholder organizations have been pioneers in adding value to food, taking the lead in organic and Fairtrade production. During the last years we have seen a huge increase in private and multinational companies’ participation in sustainability markets, with a downwards impact on prices, smallholder participation and poverty reduction. Many sustainability schemes are not accessible for smallholders, as standards are developed without proper consultation and understanding of the context smallholders operate in. The EU organic certification, which historically relies on high smallholder participation, is about to change some key articles with the intent to strengthen control, but at the same time these changes will be affecting certification and compliance costs, smallholder organizational structures, inclusive membership and collective bargaining power. The upcoming changes in the EU regime will definitively end up excluding many smallholder farmers from organic certification, weaken smallholder organizations, and contradicting the EU Farm to Fork strategy of increasing agro-ecological practices and biodiversity at affordable prices.
De Pena, M. (2023). The impact of private and public certification schemes and labels on smallholder participation in agricultural trade. Acta Hortic. 1367, 269-276
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1367.31
biodiversity, corporate responsibility, human and environmental rights, living income, living wages, organic, poverty reduction, private public certification, smallholders, sustainable development goals, sustainability

Acta Horticulturae