Participants of the UNCTAD Slow Food Workshops in Turin/Italy.
Photo: © Roland Krieg

Promoting regional products from the South

Quality products from Madagascar. What may still sound strange in the world of delicatessen could soon become an example of a new world of trademarks across the globe. Slow Food and UNCTAD intend to promote regional products from developing countries.

The inhabitants of Madagascar are familiar with pink rice. Many tourists are also familiar with it as a delicacy, and many a starred restaurant adorns itself with this speciality from Lake Alaotra in Madagascar. However, marketing of such products lags behind the delicatessen of the industrialised countries. Usually, their reputation is only known among specialists, and often, budgets are too tight to market such dishes internationally.

The Slow Food association, an organisation from Italy that focuses on artisanal food production, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD have got together to work out how this state of affairs could be changed in the future. At the Terra Madre trade fair in Turin in late October 2014, they discussed options to improve the marketing of produce from the Least Developed Countries (LDC). There is a long list of possible specialities. For example, the wives of the Imraguen coastal fishermen in Mauretania produce cured grey mullet roe (Mullet butargo). This society on the Atlantic coast comprises not more than 1,500 people. Red rice from Bhutan, wild coffee from Ethiopia’s Harenna Forest, green and golden tea from Laos, Kampot pepper from Cambodia, which some people say is the best pepper in the world, fruit juice from Senegal that women from the Casamance region make in the traditional way, or the pink-coloured Malady and Rojofotsy rice from Madagascar mentioned above top the list of such specialities.

Director of Commerce Amedeo Teti from the Italian Ministry of Agriculture suggested that geographically registered terms should be introduced, as is already the case in Europe. Such “brands” would then belong not to a certain company but to all those involved who could benefit from marketing. Moreover, introducing a respective term attracts a greater level of attention, and in the importing country, it can ensure a higher price.

Stefano Inama of UNCTAD’s Africa Department keeps an open mind on such approaches. However, he maintains that they also require some preconditions. A product’s quality standards as well as phyto and hygienic safety in international trade have to be documented and ensured. Inama called for world-wide regulations on geographic indication. This was the key to realising such programmes. As a “side-effect”, regional specialties from LDC could consolidate the culture and identity of local societies. With such marketing strategies, the smallholders would also have an opportunity to be perceived alongside the major brands.

Roland Krieg, Journalist, Berlin/Germany