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Asia: FOA releases labeling scheme for mountain products

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FAO’s Mountain Partnership and Slow Food have launched a voluntary product label for mountain goods that is meant to improve market access for small highland producers from developing countries and highlight mountain products as distinct and sustainable.

The new label places a premium on goods that support local biodiversity and production methods that are linked to the cultural traditions of mountain communities.

Products carrying the mountain label will be available in national markets, organic stores and specialty shops.

Among the flagship products that are part of the first phase of the Mountain Partnership Products initiative are apricots grown in the remote mountainous region of Batken in Kyrgyzstan and rare black amaranth grain produced in the Bolivian Andes.

Other products such as coffee to tea and spices from different mountain areas of developing countries will also be marketed under the new label, which will be available free of charge to mountain producers following a review of their products and production methods.

By giving mountain products a distinguishable brand, the labeling scheme will help local producers win market recognition by guaranteeing that products are predominantly produced and transformed in mountain areas and come from small-scale production respectful of local ecosystems.

The scheme – which producers submit to voluntarily – is also designed to ensure fair returns for producers and the equitable distribution of profits along the entire value chain.

“Promoting biodiversity and supporting smallholder producers are both crucial actions to improve rural development and secure the future of mountain areas,” said General Secretary of Slow Food Paolo Di Croce.

Despite their rich culture and environmental heritage, mountain communities remain economically marginalized, he added.

One reason for this is that the remoteness and isolation of mountain areas often impede producers, limiting their access to markets, extension services, credit and information.

Additionally, the high number of middlemen in the value chain of many mountain products means that producers do not always obtain fair compensation.

By promoting high-value products that benefit biodiversity and equitable returns, the label allows consumers to buy into environmental conservation while reducing pressures that drive producers to engage in production methods harmful to the environment.

As such, it simultaneously addresses poverty and unsustainable use of natural resources in highland regions and contributes to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda – especially SDG1 on ending poverty in all its forms and SDG15 on the sustainable management of ecosystems and biodiversity.

How it works

The mountain label is not mandatory for mountain producers nor does it replace other labels their products may have to carry under national laws.

But it is an easy tool for small scale producers and associations to set their wares apart in a positive way.

Application for the label could be made at the Mountain Partnership Secretariat directly or through local Mountain Partnership focal points.