For a Brazilian group of small melon farmers based in the municipality of Mossoró, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, in the North of Brazil, the main goal is to reach the foreign market before the end of 2008. United in the Association for the Development of the Agricultural Industry in Rio Grande do Norte (Adap) since last year, they are now seeking certification in Fair and Ethical Trade.
The certification process for the melons is already underway at the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO), and the products will soon be available on supermarket shelves, bearing the seal that ensures balance and responsibility in the conduction of trade relations. According to the president at Adap, Ubiratan Carvalho, this will be the world's first Fair Trade action turned to melon farming.
In all, 10 families are responsible for farming a variety of melon considered "noble" in the international fruit farming market. The fruit is ecologically correct because chemicals are not utilized, cultivation is carried out under conditions favorable to environmental conservation and preservation, and national and international labour regulations are observed, such as eradication of slave and child labour.
Furthermore, the farming process follows strict quality control in every phase of production, selection and packing. "Last year, for instance, a group of British buyers visited the community to get to know our production. Approximately 350 boxes of melon were shipped to England for analysis and, after rigorous evaluation, observing the most stringent international standards, melon from Rio Grande do Norte was rated 5, considered to be of excellent quality," celebrates Carvalho.
Founded in 2007, the Adap emerged as a response to the need for improving farmers' sales practices. "The group then organized itself, in order to seek better pricing for purchases of inputs, negotiate well, and deal directly with buyers, eliminating middlemen," says the president.
Presently, the group controls 50 hectares of land for farming melon and some other fruit, such as watermelon, papaya and banana. In the community, crops are irrigated and the entire farming process is conducted without the use of chemical fertilizers. Melon sells for prices ranging from 0.10 real to 0.30 real (US$ 0.06 to US$ 0.18) per kilogram, generating a monthly average income of 1,500 to 2,000 Brazilian reais (US$ 921 to US$ 1,228) for each family.
The working environment is safe, children attend school, environment is respected and gender equality is observed. These principles constitute demands of the international Fair Trade movement.
"I regard this action as a viable alternative that will revolutionize Brazilian family farming. I believe that the path for small domestic groups to reach the foreign market is by means of sustainable initiatives like this one," asserts Carvalho.
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