Contract production of organic pepper – a project initiated for the first time in North Macedonia last year created sustainable pathways for systemic change in the agricultural sector, contributing to great results with numerous satisfied farmers, buyers, and processors.
The leading role on the ground belongs to Agrotim.mk – a specialized information platform for agriculture in the country. Through a persistent approach, they managed to systematize farmers, institutions, buyers/ traders, and local government representatives. This has proven to be the best model for Macedonian farmers, creating utmost trust and reliability.
“At first, farmers were untrustworthy, unwilling to cooperate, and difficult to change. But I was determined to alter the status quo, as farmers needed to unite and act together. We motivated them to join the project by offering a safe purchase price and 100% higher subsidies. It turned out to be a great deal as by the end of the season our fellow farmers got a good yield, having sold the pepper for 30 denars per kilogram, while the conventional one was 14 denars, and they took the money from the processor in only 7 days. There is no more uncertainty. Farmers produce, but now they know where and how much they are selling.”– says Lenche Nikolovska, Manager of Agrotim.
The potential for systemic change was noticed by the Swiss Embassy in the country and the project was supported through the Increasing Market Employability Program – IME. The entire initiative was led by experienced advisors for organic production, who were there for the farmers both for the theoretical knowledge, but also during the production process on the ground.
“Organic production has no higher costs, nor it is delicate. It is just a way of production where the agro-technical measures are performed according to a pre-determined program where no herbicides are allowed to be used.” – explains Angela Gjerovska, Advisor for Organic Production.
Farmers were motivated by the 100% higher subsidies and the secure placement
By following this model, every farmer knows to whom they sell and where they place their product, thus having predictable placement and earnings. Fully adopting contract production requires regaining trust among farmers and buyers. What Agrotim did is restoring that trust and increase cooperation by gaining support from businesses and institutions.
“There is no better solution than contract production. In this way, we are certain how much and for whom to produce. Organic production is increasingly in demand in European markets. That is why several farmers who now produce up to 100 tons of pepper, will join this project over the course of 2022. We had several public meetings organized by Agrotim. They were a great tool for staying informed about the registration procedure for organic producers, the steps for obtaining organic certifications, and much more.” – said one of the agricultural producers.
The farmers who were part of the contract production of pepper are satisfied with the cooperation, as it offers a pre-agreed placement and price. This positive experience is expected to motivate other farmers to plant larger areas with organic pepper in 2022. Thus, they will have 100% higher subsidies than the conventional production, as well as other benefits provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy with the aim of increasing domestic organic production.
“Confidence in buyers and processors must be restored because when you treat the relationship as a partnership, the results are sure to come. Farmers must try and think positively in the direction of changing things and creating” – accentuates Lence Nikolovska from Agrotim.
The sustainable production of organic peppers will also stimulate the domestic processing industry to offer more value-added organic products to export buyers. Stay tuned for more results from this project in 2022!