Rainforest Alliance spices up sustainability with new standard

With its proven track record, international conservation organisation, the Rainforest Alliance was chosen by the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI) to adapt the existing Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards to incorporate spice production. This was announced by the Rainforest Alliance during the 11th World Spice Congress in Pune, India today. SSI is the first major programme to build on the sustainable production of spices

Founded by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) –and four leading players in the Dutch spice market, this major spice programme will aim to implement SAN standards to the production to 34 different types of culinary spices.

Chris Wille, Head of Agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance said, "We’re delighted that the leading spice companies have recognised the value of the SAN standards for building sustainability in the industry. Through our network of local partners in the main producing countries, we will adapt and develop the standards to ensure the economic, social and environmental management aspects of how spices are produced are sustainable."

The first phase of the project, which will run from 2012-2015, will focus on seven spices: pepper, chilies, ginger, turmeric, vanilla, clove and cassia. The four production countries for the first phase will include: Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Madagascar. It is expected that the Rainforest Alliance will complete the standard for pepper by the end of 2012.

Current practices in the production of spices are having an adverse effect on sustainability. Loss of biodiversity, the use of chemicals and pesticides, and poor labour conditions are all issues that will be addressed through the SAN standard.

Through the implementation of the SAN standards, an array of areas will be addressed including: soil and water conservation; the protection of wildlife and forests; planning and monitoring; responsible waste management; and the prohibition of dangerous pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Additionally, the SAN standards encompass a range of worker protection issues identified by the International Labour Organization, including the right to organise; the right to a safe, clean working environment; the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage; the right to dignified housing (including potable water); access to medical care for workers and their families; and access to free education for children. Farmers who work with the Rainforest Alliance also learn to increase productivity and control costs, often producing higher quality crops that can earn a better market price.

Eric Servat, Rainforest Alliance’s Cocoa Program Manager said, "We have found that farmers engaged in the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM programme learn how to grow smart, increasing their bottom line today, and conserving the fertile soils and natural resources on which their children will depend tomorrow. This ambitious project will help farmers in the four production countries achieve this, and will also make Rainforest Alliance a major player in the certification of spices."