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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on May 24th, 2023
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Organic Trade & Investments 2023: A Ghanaian Leading Exporter of Organic Products

Esthy Asante is the CEO and Head of Business Development at Organic Trade and Investments Ghana. As a seasoned business leader with extensive experience in the agribusiness industry, she is dedicated to promoting organic farming and fair trade practices in Ghana. Under her leadership, Organic Trade and Investments Ghana has become a leading exporter of organic products, helping to drive sustainable economic growth in the country. With a deep commitment to social and environmental responsibility, Esthy Asante is an inspiring leader who is dedicated to creating positive change in her community and beyond. DeliveryRank has the pleasure…

What inspired you to establish Organic Trade and Investments, and what is the company's main mission and vision?

I stumbled upon the creation of Organic Trade and Investment (OTI) by chance back in 2013 while working for an oil manufacturing company that was importing their products to Ghana. I felt that it was not right to not create jobs for the local youth and wanted to change the narrative surrounding African products. 

In 2015, while working as a Quality Manager for a multinational ground handler, I sent a few samples of locally handmade Shea butter and orders of semi-finished ingredients to some clients in Egypt. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell my part of the story, which was all about Ghana. At the time, I knew little about international commodities despite working in the aviation industry, and I had no intention of establishing a company. I wanted to buy and sell and work with these bigger production companies. 

However, one big mistake changed everything. The quality of the Shea butter I exported to the client did not meet their expectations, and I decided to do something different. Instead of dealing with already established companies, I worked with women producers in the sector, overseeing quality control management and taking care of the supply from start to finish, minimizing risk assessment for both the client and producer. 

After two years in the business and evaluating the market, I registered the company in 2017 and began full operation in October 2019 with the final mission of promoting the use of organic and natural products while supporting small-scale farmers and producers who practice sustainable organic farming in Ghana, and protecting biodiversity and improving people's livelihoods. 

Our vision is to encourage consumers to buy organically grown and produced products and to make choices that will improve their health, the lives of the farmers and producers, and protect the environment. In short, with OTI, we want to serve as a reliable resource for commodity exchange between the farmer, producer, and consumer by combining agribusiness with technology.

As a company that promotes sustainable and organic agriculture, how do you ensure that your supply chain is free of harmful pesticides and chemicals, and what are the challenges you face in achieving this goal?

At OTI, we are committed to upholding high standards of quality in our agricultural and manufacturing practices, from primary production to warehousing feasibility and product recalls. We believe that quality is paramount, and we hold all of our producers and farmers to strict obligations outlined in our supplier code of conduct. These obligations include fair and equal treatment of employees, compliance with health and safety measures and human rights, adherence to the law, and compliance with additional standards. 

Before any product is exported or distributed in the market, it undergoes testing by recognized ISO-certified laboratory organizations, either locally or internationally, and we issue a phytosanitary certificate and certificate of analysis for every shipment. We also conduct regular audits and provide free capacity building to suppliers through experienced coaches, such as myself, who use ITC training modules as a reference. Our goal is to establish trust and harmony with all parties involved while ensuring that everyone adheres to the rules of law.

As for challenges, we face an issue of greenwashing in the industry, where businesses are increasingly claiming to be environmentally friendly without actually following through on their promises. We believe that integrating sustainability in business is essential, even though it may not seem cost-effective at the beginning, especially for an SME like OTI. However, we are committed to educating our customers on the importance of fair trade practices, purchasing quality products at a higher price, and reusing packaging materials to remain eco-friendly. Our long-term vision is to win over customers who share our values and understand the importance of sustainable business practices.

What sets Organic Trade and Investments apart from other companies in the organic and sustainable agriculture industry, and how do you plan to expand your business in the future?

At OTI, we specialize in the export trading of natural organic products and value-added products manufactured and cultivated exclusively in Africa. As a company, we recognize the importance of combining profit and purpose to create a more prosperous society, particularly within Africa. We work with a variety of suppliers, with 70% of them being women-led groups, to offer solutions to the problems facing Ghana's agricultural sector.

As a pioneer in adopting an integral virtual work environment, we've been leveraging traditional agricultural practices and modern technologies to enhance our services. We embrace our core values of people, ethics, quality, consistency, and respect, and we empower everyone in our company to create balance in their work and personal lives.

At OTI, we're committed to creating a resilient and engaged workforce, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding burnout and mental distress. We recognize that the traditional way of working may no longer be effective, and we democratize learning and teaching while focusing on adaptive learning and outputs. We encourage our employees to use their own devices, work from anywhere, and collaborate through technology. We believe that coopetition and partnerships are essential foundations for building a sustainable business. We started as a small trading company and have progressed to becoming a blockchain technology company. As pioneers in the virtual office and business sector, we're always looking for innovative ways to deliver our work efficiently and effectively.

How do you prioritize sustainability and social responsibility in your business decisions, and what measures do you take to ensure that your operations have a positive impact on the environment and local communities?

As the founder of OTI, our focus has always been on promoting sustainability and contributing to community development in Africa. We established specific sustainability KPIs, such as product recycling, waste recycling rate, energy consumption, and environmental sustainability index, which are measured by our suppliers. Our core values are founded on the principles of sustainability, which is why we aim to promote small-scale growers and producers, create jobs, and reduce inequalities while sensitizing customers to make responsible choices.

Since we started in 2017 with just 20 farmers, we have grown to nearly 150,000 farmers across Africa, with 300 manufacturers. We implemented the RED standard for breeding procedures and established a research and development department to focus on market research. Through these efforts, we have been able to stop post-harvest waste by 100% among our growers and reduce production waste by 90% among our manufacturers.

We prioritize the wellbeing of our people and the protection of our ecosystem and natural resources, which is why we use eco-friendly packaging materials and practice circular production. As a company, we believe that all our activities should be geared towards sustainability, and we continue to work towards that goal every day

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing the organic and sustainable agriculture industry today, and what steps can be taken to address these challenges?

It's concerning to see the shift towards the use of GMOs in Africa when governments are implementing policies to promote organic farming. As someone in the agriculture industry in Ghana, I believe there are several challenges we face. The most pressing issue is getting banks to review their terms and conditions for providing loans to farmers and traders like myself. In Ghana, the interest rates on loans can be as high as 32%, whereas our counterparts in other countries receive the same service at rates of 2-12%. To remain competitive, banks and financial institutions in Ghana and Africa as a whole need to be more agile in their dealings with farmers and provide export credit facilities.

Another challenge we face is the cost of organic certification, which can be quite expensive for farmers in Africa. It can cost $25,000 to get certified and then $9,000 to renew it annually. This adds more costs to the initial price of the product, making it harder to establish a reliable market for organic certified products. We need a market that is committed to investing in organic certification and reliable enough for us to communicate with. To help businesses acquire these certificates, we believe that national regulatory authorities should conduct audits and training programs on quality standardization for commercial products that aim to certify local SMEs in the agriculture sector.

Although progress has been made towards the SDGs and other policies, national governments have not created enough frameworks that demand action from businesses in Ghana to implement good practices of sector collaboration and private partnerships around sustainability. This is something we need to work on.

If you would like to find out more about OTI, visit https://www.oti-gati.com/ or follow on https://www.facebook.com/OTIGATI/ or https://www.instagram.com/otigati_ghana/

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