Olam Agri launches global regenerative agriculture programme to offer traceable and sustainably grown cotton

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/Sabrina Gordon
Image: Getty/Sabrina Gordon

Related tags regenerative agriculture cotton

The food, feed, and fibre agribusiness has unveiled what it claims is the largest certified regenerative agriculture programme globally in the cotton supply chain.

The programme aims to meet what Olam Agri called the growing demand for traceable and sustainably grown cotton, having started in the US and Côte d’Ivoire, with Australia and Brazil to follow this year.

In 2020, Olam provided cotton farmers with the tools, resources, and access to market opportunities to mitigate climate risks, increase soil fertility, sequester carbon, encourage biodiversity, and manage water and energy use.

The new programme will offer customers cotton products with full chain of custody certification from production, harvesting, ginning and storage, to shipment. All farms and ginning facilities under the programme will be certified by Regenagri, a third-party certified programme that ratifies regenerative agricultural claims.

In Côte d’Ivoire, Olam Agri has already achieved Regenagri certification for 100% of its directly sourced cotton, it said. It added that more than 250,000 hectares of land, 20,000 farm enterprises and both of Olam Agri’s ginning facilities that process 100,000 metric tonnes (MT) of seed cotton in the country have been Regenagri certified. In the US, Olam Agri has received Regenagri certification for 15,000 hectares of farmland and three ginning facilities producing 20,000 MT of cotton.

"At Olam Agri, we want to transform food and agriculture supply chains to have a net positive impact on climate, nature and biodiversity while ensuring transparency and traceability," said Ashok Hegde, CEO, Fibre, Agri-Industrials & Ag Services at Olam Agri. "We’ll be able to provide our customers access to sustainably sourced cotton that is fully traceable from production to shipment. By embracing regenerative agriculture, we aim to restore and enhance soil health, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sequester more carbon, while fostering resilience and prosperity for farmers.”

Dr. Shailendra Mishra, our Head of Climate, Environment, and Natural Capital at Olam Agri, added: “This programme helps strengthen sustainability standards in the cotton supply chain. By harnessing agriculture to support healthy soil and yields, while providing end-customers with the assurance of their cotton product’s origin, this is a pivotal step forward in Olam Agri’s commitment to nature-, climate- and livelihood-positive goals. Embracing regenerative cotton builds more resilient supply chains, creating a unique opportunity for global brands and retailers to offer sustainably grown cotton to consumers worldwide.”

Franco Costantini, CEO at Regenagri said: “It’s great to see Olam Agri’s serious commitment to promote regenerative agriculture and we’re very pleased to support them in scaling up the implementation of the Regenagri programme globally. Regenagri aims to secure the health of the land and those who live on it, and has tripled in growth over the last year, with more than one million hectares of land worldwide under the programme. It will provide Olam Agri with a third-party programme to assess, certify and report the environmental impact across different commodities, from cotton to food products.”

Earlier this month, Regenagri released two updates to its regenerative agriculture standard, to include elevated contextualised assessment and labour criteria.

The Regenagri standard, which contains more than 30 criteria to measure environmental impact from implementing regenerative practices, now has a more diverse assessment capability tailored to localised farm conditions but on a global scale, it said.

Contextualisation is based on conditions including geographical climates, varying soil types and types of farms. The move will provide a more comprehensive and fairer evaluation of unique farmland, with distinct characteristics, it said.

The Regenagri standard also now includes labour criteria, which includes ensuring farms adhere to requirements on important aspects, including child labour and young workers, freedom of association, freely chosen employment, wages and benefits, and health and safety.

Costantini said: “Regenagri takes a comprehensive approach, backed by robust data, to assess the positive outcomes of regenerative farming.

“The updated standard drives a more granular farm assessment, making it fairer and more accessible to farms in any region in the world.

“The new updates also provides extra assurance that labour, health and safety principles are met.”

First coffee sourced from regenerative agriculture

In October last year Illycaffè announced it was first coffee brand to achieve Regenagri certification. It said its Arabica Selection Brazil Cerrado Mineiro has been produced and sourced under certified regenerative agriculture criteria throughout its supply chain.

“The Arabica Selection Brasile Cerrado Mineiro is the result of the relationship we have built over the years with coffee producers and the Federation of Producers of Cerrado Mineiro,” said Illycaffè CEO Cristina Scocchia. “Aware that this challenge can only be overcome by joining forces, we have identified the best techniques for ecosystem adaptation, mitigation, and regeneration, producing the first 100% arabica coffee sourced from certified regenerative agriculture.”

Regenagri said it now certifies around 20,000ha of land in coffee production, and more than 50 coffee producers, in Brazil alone.

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