Mexican agave supplier Best Ground received this year, Fair Trade certification for all products, coming from its partner plant Bioagaves de la Costa, the first certification of this kind ever granted in the sector. The process was possible thanks to the fact that the processing plant Bioagaves is a joint venture between Best Ground, the Integradora Otilio Montaño, an umbrella that unites seven cooperatives of small agave producers from Tepic, Nayarit and the regional and federal governments.
“It has been an exciting project, although it was not easy, being that we were the first one Fair Trade has certified. The inspector had to study the complete process of agave production from field to the end product and to inspect the fields from the seven cooperatives that are spread out within different communities,” said Sinuhe Ramirez, Best Ground’s special projects coordinator.
Fair Trade analyses how the cooperatives live, how they get integrated, working conditions, income from the agave production and the premiums they receive and how they plan to invest those extra funds. “Since its inception in 2009, Best Ground has been paying more to the growers than the market price,” said Paulina Lomeli, PR and communications manager at Best Ground.
“Our clients were asking if besides organic we also could supply them with Fair Trade certified agave. The transition period to obtain the certification was relatively short, since our infrastructure was already set up with these principles in mind and at the Bioagaves de la Costa processing plant the small cooperatives are also direct partners.” Since all cooperatives are not located in the same community it is hard to invest the premiums they receive in social projects like health care or education, said Mr. Ramirez. “For now the farmers are planning to purchase better tools and equipment to facilitate their work in the fields.
Despite the Fair Trade seal being very visible in Mexico’s coffee sector, there is no local entity yet to verify the use of the trademark for agave. Therefore, Best Ground is only allowed to use the FLO ID in every product coming from the Bioagaves plant in bulk, but not in retail packaging.
Best Ground production facilities are comprised of five factories strategically located to process agave cultivated in a total area of 14,000 hectares. “The agave plant takes at least six years to mature before it can be harvested,” said Mr. Ramirez. The firm needs the fields to be at different stages of development, to ensure continuous supply of raw material for its production facilities. “We are proud of this accomplishment. It will provide a new standard for the Mexican agave industry,” he said.
Currently, Best Ground generates 3,200 jobs in addition to its 310 direct employees and processes 90 tons of agave syrup, 20 tons of liquid agave inulin, 10 tons of powdered agave inulin and five thousand liters of tequila, Mexico’s national drink. The company is diversifying and also supplies chia seeds and soon will supply organic certified honey. “Since Mayan times the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan has been known for the special aroma of this natural sweetener”, said Mr. Ramirez. We will add this high quality ingredient and whole food to the flavors from Mexico our company aims to share with the rest of the world”.