News - January 11, 2018

‘Inclusive trade will be the norm’

Albert Sikkema

World trade is slowly but surely becoming more sustainable and more inclusive. This means that Dutch companies have to keep ahead of the pack by cooperating with NGOs and researchers. Gonne Beekman will be making this case at the Agro Debate that is being held on thursday january 11th in Rotterdam.

Photo: Gonne Beekman, development economist.

The Agro Debate, organized by Wageningen Economic Research, is about the developments in international trade and how the Dutch agricultural sector can respond to them. Beekman is a development economist who has in recent years investigated the effects of development projects and trade agreements on tropical crops.

Multinationals are increasingly investing in farming communities in developing countries in order to improve food production, protect nature or increase farmers' incomes. This inclusive trade is often an interplay between campaign groups, who have sustainability objectives, and companies aiming to secure their supplies of raw materials. The agreements result in quality labels such as Fair Trade. The Netherlands is in the vanguard of this business model, says Beekman. She anticipates more companies investing in this inclusive trade so that they can supply local products for niche markets.

Palm oil
She gives the example of cooperation between the Sustainable Trade Initiative and a large oil palm company in Liberia so that palm oil production can be combined with nature conservation. ‘They are looking for options for achieving both objectives as well as involving the local community. We have to study this type of cooperative venture and find out which approaches work.'

Alcoholic drinks
She also sees more cooperation between international companies and local communities in the production of beer and spirits, for which the local farmers supply the necessary grain or sugar. ‘It's a trend that’s going to grow. There’s also criticism. Such agreements between the company and the local community are often limited in scope, as is the extra income for the farmers. At WUR, we understand tropical crops and food chains, so we're a logical partner to help ngo's and companies move this inclusive trade to the next level.'

Beekman is one of the young researchers at Wageningen Economic Research who will be giving a presentation during the Agro Debate that that is being held on thursday january 11th in Rotterdam.