It is obvious that healthy way of life which is now popularized worldwide is associated with healthy nutrition, and, so on, with natural food for dinner. Green milk and meat production is popular all over the world, especially in European countries, and this is not surprising: the richer people are, the more money they are ready to spend on food.
Most of the Russian consumers can imagine at least roughly what green production is, but are they ready to buy it? Ecologically produced milk or meat fillet would be several times more expensive than their familiar factory analogues. The other question is: how to distinguish green production from the so-called “greenwashing”, when manufacturers mark their packages with false “ecological” symbolics?
Our experts will tell you all about this, and much more as well.
Julia Gracheva, CEO of Ecological Union
– Most of Russian farmers are familiar with green production manufacturing standards and technologies. The problem is that the existing retail system doesn't let farmers sell products even for their own price. That's why the household owners working in these segments look for alternative sources for sales, including their own sites, online stores or special sales points.
As for consumers, they are ready to pay more for naturalness. It's proved by data from many polls which show that ecological characteristics of a product are more important for Russia than its price or a brand's attractiveness. For example, if organic products costs 10-15% more than traditional ones, many consumers are ready to pay more for its quality. But in Russia green products are usually at least two times more expensive than traditional ones. This is premium segment which is not available for everyone.
Another thing is that in our country, there is no unified standards for organic production certification. For example, for being certified according to biological and organic standards in animal breeding, one needs to use certified nutrition, either grown by themselves or bought somewhere. Of course, there are animal feeds in Russia which are approved for usage in organic farms. But feeds used in agriculture everywhere are not suitable for organic animal-breeding. Even farmers using grain feed can't find certified grain, for those who use compound feed the task is even more difficult. The lack of certified feed in the market is the main problem of ecological certification of animal products in Russia.
The other serious problem of nowadays is greenwashing, or green brainwashing. Many manufacturers give misleading information to consumers marking their goods with “eco”,”organic” or “bio” marks without any serious reasons for that. Because of many kinds of such markings, the consumers' trust to suppliers of real natural products is falling. Neither in America, nor in Europe manufacturers can write down the “Organic product” mark without a certain certificate. In Russia, according to the existing GOST standard, it is also prohibited to place declarations on packages without any proving documents. But really no one is to control that. So, there is a law, but there is no control system for its execution.
We can suggest that when the unified standard by the Ministry of Agriculture is implemented, there will be a unique sign for green products marking, control procedures will be done and self-declaration will disappear, so, the consumers' trust will return in some time.
A Russian-Finnish common program Ecofood is directed to development of organic production in the North-West of Russia. According to this program, Ecological Union is working at the Russian standard of voluntary organic certification. It is similar to European standards but adapted to the local household circumstances. Manufacturers can pass through organic certification at an easy rate thanks to this program.
Andrey Kuznetsov, Ecological Union's organic certification expert:
– The demand for green production exists, it is slightly increasing but quite small for nowadays. In Moscow, there are quite many chain stores selling natural food, for example, “Azbuka Vkusa” and in some way “Green Perekrestok”. As for meat products, they are bought in Moscow as farmers are lucky to get the distribution going.
In St.Petersburg, this branch is only beginning to develop. For example, in “Land”, “Globus Gourmet”, “Super Babylon” and other premium markets there are quite a lot of kinds of green production, but there are mostly canned goods, not fresh ones.
Someone should break this name of the game, and some manufacturers have already taken the initiative. For example, two households certifying for green products supply have appeared in Leningrad region. But the question with marketing is quite painful for many of them.
So, there are some prospects for green food manufacturers in big cities with the population over 1 million, where people's salaries let them spend a lot of money for food.
As for the development of organic products market in our country, it will begin from premium chain stores or small online shops.
Dmitry Dvas, “Zhivoe Pole” (Living Field) farm owner:
– In our country, no one fully understands what green production is. Different people have different criteria. For some people, poultry grow on a farm, not at a factory, is already clean. But it it really far from the criteria of ecological cleanness. To call the product natural, we need to know how often the animal spends time on natural grassland, what it eats and drinks. For example, in compound feed there are artificially implemented ingredients.
What's more, even in grain feed we can't guarantee the ecological compatibility. If this grain is grown with the use of fertilizers, weed-killing chemicals or is fumigated, or prepared with gas for longer quality and against insects, the rules for ecological production are not kept out anymore.
Because of the lack of control measures for green production manufacturing in our law, each farmer defines the measure of necessary ecological compatibility for his manufacturing himself. The more natural the product is, the higher is its cost.
There are three factors which influence the costs for green production: the animal's growth rate, its maximum weight and the mortality level during breeding. The more natural are the cases for aimal-breeding, the slower is the growth rate, the weight is also less and the mortality is higher. That is why the costs are high.
As long as the criteria for ecological compatibility of food are normal, it would be hard to sell it. Each consumer will choose the ecological compatibility rate he is ready to pay for, but he should know it exactly, understand it and trust the manufacturer and the certificating official entity. Now the consumers have their reason to answer that they are able to buy similar production at a lower price. What to they think of as “similar”? I think it's farmer's production. But products from farmers are not the same as green products.
As I think, green products should also be rated by their quality. There are already farmers which produce food according to standards which are even more strict than in Europe. Among them, there are total excluding of medicines, fertilizers and feeding components, natural insemination and incubation. That is why I stand not only for ecological certification, but also for distinguished ecological certification.