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Organic and Fair Trade Mint Oil: India

By: Rob Hardy, Earthoil, with an introduction by Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: May 27, 2009
Mint farmer

Mint farmer in India.

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Introduction

Earthoil (Staffordshire, England), a subsidiary of Treatt plc (Bury St. Edmunds, England), has been awarded IMO (Institute for Marketecology) Fair for Life (www.fairforlife.net) status for its Indian mint growing operation in Uttar Pradesh, from which organic and conventional oils are produced: peppermint, spearmint, corn mint, menthol and dementholized oil.

Hugo Bovill, managing director of Treatt plc, explains that Indian mint is traditionally purchased from processors who in turn purchase mint from dealers who in turn buy it from farmers, creating a lengthy and costly “middle man” supply chain scenario—little of which benefits the farmers. Earthoil instead purchases directly from 600-plus collectivized farmers, making some of its payments through an independent charitable foundation. The Earthoil Foundation was established to oversee both premium payments to the farmers for their organic products and a separate payment into a farmer-led community fund which provides everything from organic inputs to health and education improvements within the villages. The arrangement’s Fair for Life certification recognizes standards of social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. According to an official statement, “The criteria for this accreditation include guaranteeing good working conditions, respecting core labor rights and ensuring smallholder groups have a fair relationship with farmer organizations (or the contracting company) and the individual farmer.”

Here, Rob Hardy, special projects director for organic and fair trade for Earthoil, presents his insights into the fair trade challenges of producing organic essential oils. Hardy’s background extends to his previous work with the Soil Association and other Earthoil projects for certified organic cosmetic oils in Africa and India.

- Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor

What is Fair and Ethical Trade?

Organic essential oils and organic seed oils, grown and extracted to certified organic standards, are a significant and rapidly growing part of the supply chain sought by formulators within the global flavor, fragrance and cosmetics industries. The end products to which they are directed now cover a broad spectrum limited only by the imaginations of formulators—food flavorings, personal care products, cosmetic preparations and air fresheners.

The industry reaches into a wide variety of markets. And throughout these markets is an increasing interest in, and adoption of, organic standards of production. The use of organic ingredients by formulators is therefore rapidly increasing. Simultaneously, because the component raw materials are so often sourced from producers in developing countries, the adoption of fair trading practices has come under very close attention.