Food certification schemes are more prevalent than ever in Africa, driven by demand in developed countries, with a range of labels dominating the landscape, from Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire to organic Tunisian olive oil and fair-trade mangoes in Senegal. African states encourage these agricultural exports as they are supposed to generate revenues and jobs, but there has been ongoing debate for years over the merits of such labels, which come from outside the continent. Intended to provide consumers with an assurance of product quality and ethical farming practices, the labels’ impact on African economies and growers has been mixed. On the plus side, certification schemes present several advantages for African growers, notably giving them access to high purchasing power markets such as the United States, Europe and Asia. Labels also help structure local sectors by creating co-operatives, establishing processing facilities and setting up distribution channels. When it comes to farmers’ earnings, there is a great deal of resentment to go around, though some organic and fair-trade labels are an exception to the rule. According to industry professionals, the most attractive certification schemes for African growers are those that provide for a minimum, realistic purchase price, a premium paid out to both farmers and co-operatives, the signing of a contract and the audit of co-operatives.
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