Santa Fe Province in Argentina is supporting the development of Organic Farming for niche markets
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This week, the first “agro-ecological” wheat flour was officially presented by officials from the ministry of Production of the Santa Fe Province, representatives from the farm cooperative Fecofe and the Armstrong cooperative.
“We are trying to develop a farming model for the semi-urban areas, i.e. the interphase between the urban and the rural areas, where local authorities are establishing limits to the use of the agrochemicals”, province secretary of Territorial Development, Mauro Casella said.
It is necessary to say that in the past years the farmer has been living with growing tension with an urban population around the agrochemicals spraying of the borders of the towns. Local NGO’s claimed to establish restrictions to spraying, that were fixed at 500 – 1.000 meters or more from the borders of any urban area.
This meant that conventional farming became impracticable in these areas. “The Agri Ministry is working with the implementation of Good Farming Practices, we were also thinking how to implement alternative models that conciliate urban claims with safety and environmentally friendly food production”, Casella explains.
One of the ways found was to produce wheat without the use of agrochemicals and fertilizers in these restricted areas. This production is known locally as “agro-ecological”, i.e. a production linked with the organic protocols but without its certification.
The Federated Cooperatives Federation (Fecofe) was the counterpart of the Santa Fe Production Ministry to run this initiative through its cooperatives and farmers. One of them, the Armstrong Cooperative has a wheat mill, that received the wheat and produce “agro-ecological” flour this year.
“We received 50 tons of agro-ecological wheat, to produce a flour that surprised us due to the high quality, with a 30% gluten contain. We sold these 900 bags of wheat to bakeries in the zone, which recognizes the excellent bakery aptitude of the flour. In fact, currently, we are receiving many orders from others bakeries in the zone”, the chairman of the cooperative, Silvio Antinori explained.
Both sources, Casella and Antinori agreed that farmers were satisfied with this experience. “The wheat yielded like an average wheat yield in the zone, but they have a lower cost due to not using chemical sprays. Although the agro-ecological farming demanded more attention than the conventional one, the economic margin improved”, they affirmed.
The local province government through the Production Ministry is branding the quality of the flour as “agro-ecological” and providing the brand “De mi Tierra Santa Fe”.
“We are trying to implement a fair trade scheme for the farmers and consumers. For example, not only the miller pays the farmers the market price for their wheat, but it shares with them a percentage of the added value reached for selling a niche product”, Casella says. “As everybody knows, this kind of product has a ‘plus’ in the price, but we are trying that this ‘plus’ doesn’t need to be excessive”, Antinori adds.