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1. History of the organic sector in Cameroon 1.1 Origin and pioneers

The pioneers of the sector are Jean-Martin Tetang (EXPORT AGRO) and Jean-Pierre Imele (EXODOM). The project started in 1990 with an unusual structure: EXPORT AGRO was established in Cameroon. Mr Jean-Martin Tetang has organized and secured production through a dense channel of small-scale producers. The original objective is thus to value the local small-scale production and to ensure a regular revenue to very small producers. A collection channel of the controlled and certified production has been established in the main provinces in Cameroon.

EXODOM has its head office in Lyon, France. From the start, the strategy of both originators has been to be present in the market and to be an actor on this section of the market in rapid development. The task of EXODOM is to prospect the market and to organize the marketing and the follow-up of clients. Private funds were mobilized to organize and finance collection, production and exports. In 1996, a structure called "EXA biologique" was established. Its main objective is to manage the production tool. Initially associated at 50 percent, EXPORT AGRO and EXODOM each act in full autonomy in the organic sector. No support has been given to them. The have tried in vain to raise the awareness of local authorities on the potential of this segment of the market.

1.2 Factors of expansion

The main factor of expansion has been the willingness to develop existing production and comply with the standards of EEC Regulation 2091/92. The control and certification of this production had to be organized. The initial constraints were the organization of collection and production, the costs of control and certification, and obtaining financial resources.

2. Institutions active in the organic sector, both at national and local levels

The production of organic pineapple and papaya in Cameroon is mainly carried out by individual producers and a few groups. The grouping poles are in general constituted by the exporting producers. The exporting body, holding the organic certificate, gathers a network of producers that it monitors, controls and certifies. Common Initiative Groups ("GIC" in French) also exist. To the author’s knowledge, there is no international organization yet that works exclusively on promoting the organic sector in Cameroon.

2.1 At the private operator’s level

The Association for the Promotion of Organic Agriculture in Cameroon (ASPABIC) is the sole structure/body gathering only operators of the organic sector. There are approximately 100 members who are also producers, exporters, researchers or advocates of organic agriculture. ASPABIC provides its members with services of promotion of organic agriculture, information, public awareness, technical monitoring and advice. This has led to a growth in the number of producers, in the range of products proposed and in the number of exporters. It has also led, to some extent, to a change in convictions (from a passive type of organic agriculture with no certification to a practice based on precise standards).

2.2 Government agencies

With the support of international aid, the Government of Cameroon set up a professional association named AGROCOM, which was mandated to organize and supervise the whole exporting sector with a view to "Diversifying Cameroon’s Agricultural Exports". In particular, it deals with pineapple operators, whether they are under conventional or organic production system. Papaya is still considered as a domestic consumption crop. AGROCOM, as a professional organization gathering producers and exporters of the horticultural sectors in Cameroon, has retained a certain number of so-called "priority" crops (pineapple, onion, potato and plantain). Only producers of these crops (conventional or organic) can benefit from its support.

3. National standards and regulations

In Cameroon, strictly speaking, no national standards exist (in the sense of the EEC Regulation 2092/91) for organic agriculture. The operators started from the opportunities offered by European markets to develop Cameroon’s potential in organic agricultural production. Until now, the basis used has been EEC Regulation 2092/91. Control and certification are done by international certification bodies. The two bodies present in Cameroon are IMO and ECOCERT.

4. Production of organic fruit and vegetables

4.1 Products

Cameroon is well known for its climatic, geographic and ecological diversity, which enables farmers to grow a very large number of crops. The most frequently cultivated organic products for exports are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Organic crops

Fresh Products


Area (hectares)

Quantity (tonnes)




Cayenne lisse


1 500

All year

Littoral, South, Centre, West, south-west

Papaya solo 8 and Goliath

Carica papaya



All year

Littoral, South, Centre, south-west.

Banana, fig and Guinéos

Musa sp.


3 000

November to July

West, Centre, Littoral, South


Persea americana


1 500

Mid-February to Mid-November

West, Littoral, Centre, north-west

Mango (grafted and ameliorated)



1 000

Mid-January to October

Littoral, south-west, South, Centre

Dried Products




Douala, Yaoundé




Douala, Yaoundé




Bandjoun, Douala, Yaoundé




Douala, Yaoundé

Source: Request for certification ECOCERT, 2001.

Other products exported as organic are plantain, yam, rambutan, mangosteen, basil, tubers (sweet potato, potato, macabo, taro), various fruits (corossol, coconut, sagou), various stimulating plants (cocoa, coffee, cola nut, bitter cola, pepper), legumes (peanuts, soy, beans) and medicinal plants (citronella, methil chavicol basil, linalol basil, camomile, rosemary, ginger, peppermint, eucalyptus globilus, voacanga). Pineapple, mango, avocado, banana and papaya represent the largest exported quantities.

4.2 Typology of producers

Producers fall into three categories according to the size of their holdings and the land tenure system:

4.3 Typology of the labour force

Pineapple and papaya are principally cultivated by men. The role of women is generally limited to accompanying the men. However, among the labour force there are both women and men. Women often have tasks requiring more attention and care (crop management, harvest, storage, etc.), while men take care of soil preparation, clearing, felling trees, ploughing, etc. and of all tasks for which more physical strength is required.

4.4 Land tenure situation and size of farms

The average area in the small holding production ranges from one-twelfth to one-third of hectare, i.e. 5 000 to 20 000 plants. Over the last year, some producer-exporters have started to develop organic production to the tenure of six to eight hectares a year. Regarding papaya, the average areas are in the order of one hectare, cultivated by small producers and farm workers.

Data from two census carried out in 1994 and 1997 show that the areas dedicated to pineapple in Cameroon have globally increased (Tchimo, Nkouasseu, Njikam, et Kuimi, 1997). Data from the 1994 census for production in coastal, Southwest and part of central areas (recognized as important pineapple production areas) show a surface of 174 ha for 102 producers while the 1997 census indicates a total area of 605 ha for 184 producers, each having at least two ha. Withdrawal of the SPNP/SBM & PHP Group (SPNP: Penja New Plantations Company; SBM: Mbomé Banana Company; PHP: High Penja Plantations) in 1998 has led to a decrease in these areas to some 500 ha. Organically cropped areas account for almost 20 percent of the total area. With the development of such areas in the centre and the south, there is no doubt that organically cropped land will increase quickly.

Areas under papaya have gone through a dramatic growth since 1995, when difficulties emerged in pineapple trading, having a negative impact on the financial situation of producers. Papaya is grown all year long (which allows to obtain cash regularly) with a lower production cost compared to pineapple. In the Moungo region, papaya - mainly Solo variety - is cultivated on almost 70 ha, 30 percent of which are grown organically.

4.5 Constraints to production

Constraints are of phyto-sanitary, technical, organizational and external types. Top constraints are due to pest pressure. The major pest problems frequently faced are summarized in table 2.

If for the pests listed in Table 2 methods of management do exist and can be applied more or less successfully, it must be noted that for many other pests nothing has been done yet. Technical constraints are found in the crop management system, in particular at the level of fertilization: fertilization solely based on the provision of manure requires the handling of big quantities (ranging from 5 to 10 tonnes per hectare). Moreover, technical personnel with adequate training in organic agriculture is absent or rare. Basic notions (e.g. EEC Regulation) of organic agriculture are not taught, making thus the technical follow-up risky and the production uncertain in quantity and quality.

Table 2: Main pests and diseases


Attacked part


Soil pests


Root system

- very important damages at end and beginning of rains.
- important damages on light and very porous soils.

Leave and straw pests


Aerial part

- strong proliferation during dry season.
- carrier of the wilt.
- symbiotic life with ants.


Eat papaya tree leaves.

Strong attacks during dry season.

Fruit pests


Pineapple flowering

Problem observed in the Moungo region.


Rotting due to Phytophtora

Important proliferation during rain season and on heavy soils.

Rotting due to


- enters inside the wounds.
- the packing house must remain clean.



The whole plant

one weeding is better than two fertilizer applications.

Constraints of the organizational type are numerous. The grouping of producers in associations is under way, but there is no effective market and price information system.

Uncertainties regarding the evolution of the EEC Regulation are an external constraint. Observations and reserves raised by third countries to the different specialized committees of the EC do not seem to be taken into consideration.

For example, as regards pineapple, the EEC Regulation banning fruits for which Floral Inducing Treatment (Traitement d’Induction Florale (TIF)) is done with calcium carbide has been applied since 15 January 2001. Consequences of this directive on pineapple production are disastrous. This is because pineapple production is based on a programme which allows for harvest at targeted periods or even all year long. The enforcement of the EEC directive obliges one to follow natural flowering which induces grouped and uncertain flowerings at certain times of the year (which floods markets with a direct adverse consequence on prices) and a period of very low production. Pineapple is a very perishable commodity; thus, it is not possible to store it with the view to supplying the market regularly. Such a situation is disastrous for exporters (impossibility to book freight and negotiate contracts) as well as for producers (difficulties in plot management caused by highly time-consuming harvest and maintenance, development of pests and diseases, difficulties in proposing meaningful quantities to the exporter). Requests to the European Commission to postpone the application of this requirement until producers find alternative treatments have not been successful.

4.6 Support to organic production

Ministry of Agriculture

The support offered by the Ministry is now support from the National Agricultural Extension Programme (PNVA). It has adopted the model of training and visits as an extension approach and the deployment in the fields of relatively well trained specialists (technicians, engineers, etc.) to ensure assistance to producers.

There does not exist any particular programme targeting organic producers.

Cameroon Agricultural Export Diversification Project (PDEA)

The PDEA and AGROCOM support agriculture as a whole through financial help and advisory services for production, processing and marketing. There is no specific support for organic agriculture. Nevertheless the PDEA has identified among priority issues the elaboration of a technical package specifically for organic production with particular emphasis on fertilization and pest management. For this, technical information leaflets based on consultants’ experience have been prepared. These leaflets nevertheless need to be experimented in real conditions so that they can be validated and eventually distributed.

AGROCOM aims at organizing actors in the pineapple sector and contributes to the training of technical operators. Support to some members and partners would allow a lowering in production costs (better prices and quality of inputs) or in marketing costs (as was the case for negotiations with PLASTICAM for the quality and the prices of packaging, and with CAMAIR for freight fares). Its "sector committee" which defends the interests of all operators (from producers to exporters), includes organic operators, so that specific issues of this sector are brought to the knowledge of decision makers. AGROCOM has also undertaken to lobby the Ministry of Agriculture and the Cameroon Embassy in Brussels regarding the enforcement of the measure targeting the banning of TIF with calcium carbide (see above).

5. Marketing of organic fruit and vegetables

5.1 Local market

The local market remains informal and embryonic, but factors leading to its expansion are emerging, including:

On the local market, organic products (what consumers call "natural products") are bought by all social classes (reportedly because of their good taste); prices are directly related to the relationship between supply and demand, day by day. Pineapple prices range between CFAF80 and CFAF150/kg (while they vary from CFAF40 to CFAF100/kg for conventional products), depending on the grade, large fruits (over 1.5 kg) being the most sought after.

As an example, prices for "organic" pineapples are:

A thorough study would be needed not only to determine the organic niche potential as a whole, but also to get quantitative data on the markets.

5.2 Exports: nature and quantities of organic products exported annually

The following figures correspond to a fraction of the quantities going through a certification procedure in order to meet exportation requirements, organic productions sold on the local market being at least ten times more.

5.2.1 Fresh fruits


800 tonnes;


100 tonnes;


300 tonnes;

Other commodities

80 tonnes;

Coffee (robusta)

100 tonnes;


10 tonnes.

Source: Aspabic 2001, P. Bomia.

The marketing chain is very short with only three players: the producer, the exporter and the importer. Certification is delivered by an international accredited body at the exporter’s request for his suppliers and also at individual producer’s request. Small-scale producers sell at farm-gate to wholesalers-exporters and to other intermediaries at prices varying from CFAF150 to CFAF400/kg for pineapple and from CFAF100 à CFAF350F/kg for papaya. The exporter is in charge of collection, storage and transportation of the products to the airport where the forwarding agent sends it to the client (the direct importer or his intermediary). Destination countries are the EC countries, the United States and Switzerland. Major exporters are: Tropicagri, Export Agro sarl, Gic Terre Espoir, Agrobio and Macefcoop LTD.

5.2.2 Average FOB prices

The following table details the cost of exporting one kg of pineapple and papaya

Table 3: Cost of export by aircraft of pineapple and papaya

Cost CFAF/kg (pineapple)

Cost CFAF/kg (papaya)

Farm-gate price


100 to 350




Grading, packing



Cardboards and others






Export formalities



Cost of certification






(FOB Price Douala)

from 677 to 927

from 627 to 877

Source: Guy WAMBA.

The price differential with conventional products is in the range of 40 percent.

5.2.3 Prices along the distribution chain

Pineapples are transported by non-refrigerated truck from plantations and packing houses to airports and harbours (Picker, 1994 (b); MINAGRI, 1997). The setting up of industrial or medium-scale plantations for export depends directly on the existence of an asphalt road close by. As a consequence, plantations too far from main roads and loading points cannot work in a satisfactory way for export. Cost of transportation by road between production areas and loading points varies according to the distance to be covered, the volume to be transported, the frequency of journeys and the state of the roads. For 100 km of asphalt road, the cost is in the range of CFAF10 to 15 per kg (Picker, 1994). Air transport fares are between CFAF320 and 380 per kg (gross), for a destination in Europe on Air France and CAMAIR companies regular direct flights. Shipping in reefer vessels costs between CFAF 85 and 125 per kg depending on the ship. Transport in cooled containers is a little more expensive, around CFAF 150 per kg but allows for refrigerated transport all the way to the distribution platform (COLEACP, 1993; ECA, 1995; MINAGRI, 1997).

In the European market, the price of interest to the exporters is the price obtained by the importer from either the wholesaler or the supermarket chain. For them, this represents the price to which their product is bought. They will nevertheless have to deduct the charges of the importer’s commission. Prices vary according to the law of supply and demand. When the product quality is poor, it is not rare that exporters incur a loss.

5.2.4 Constraints to exports

Despite the low quantities currently produced, difficulties in marketing exist and are linked to the irregularity of transportation means and to the difficult access to production areas. This is what partly explains relatively high loss rates. The lack of up-to-date data on prices and markets constitutes another bottleneck. One can also mention the scattering of small holdings, the measure banning carbide TIF (ref. chap.4.5), the poor state of roads, the remoteness of areas with high production potential, the weakness of investments in agriculture and the lack of governmental action to support exports.

6. Prospects for increased production and exports

6.1 Challenges to be met

If the objective is to help small-size farmers improve their revenues, preserve the environment and increase exports, it is important to realize that the organic sector is a chain in which all the links are strongly independent. Thus, to increase production, the same impulse should be applied at all levels. Therefore, the challenges to face are:

It will define the orientations and tasks assigned to public and private operators of the sector.

As in some provinces (coast, centre, south-west) human pressure on land does not allow the soils to recover and clean themselves of agro-chemicals, organic farming cannot be practised.

Promotion measures need to be taken.

In order to stimulate development of investments in infrastructures necessary to the functioning of the organic sector (MINDIC= Ministry for Industrial and Commercial Development).

For this purpose, a national organization like ASPABIC (or any other structure), will have to collaborate with the international certification institutions (The certifying bodies present in Cameroon: Ecocert and IMO suisse) so that the latter can help facilitate the certification process.

The table in Annex I presents the possible actions, with a view to the development of production, preservation of environment and development of the volume of exports.

6.2 Potential to increase production

The advantages of Cameroon are important, despite the constraints mentioned above.

Cameroon has on its territory all types of intertropical climates. Also, Cameroon has good soils (e.g. volcanic, ferralitic) in regions of high, medium and low altitude.

The agricultural active population of Cameroon accounts for more than 40 per cent of the total population. To this population, mainly rural, must be added professional agricultural farmers searching for new opportunities and endowed with sufficient financial resources (e.g., businessmen, retired high-ranking officials in conversion to agriculture).

The strong increase in the prices of synthetic farm inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) and the lack of involvement of public structures have led entire areas to convert to organic farming.

7. Conclusions: lessons learnt and success factors

The development of the organic sector has been reflected by a significant growth in crops and the number of operators. Farmers who traditionally farm without fertilizers or chemical products (for financial reasons and due to the lack of commercial opportunities) have been encouraged to convert to organic farming by the market opportunities (in particular the export market).

The range of products has also increased, from fresh products only in 1994 to processed products (dried, juices, pulps) more recently.

The number of operators has risen from two operators in 1998 to around ten in 2001. This number increases constantly due to the fact that prices are seen as more remunerative compared to conventional production.

Two support and promotion organizations have been established (ASPABIC in the French-speaking area and AVEGRO in English-speaking area).

With the expansion of the sector, it would be useful for local operators to join together in order to improve their access to the international market.

Possible roles of main players in the organic sector



Ground for the activity

Farmers organized in organic producer association

Production in accordance with local standards and regulations and in conformity with the market requirements (both internal and external) and compliance with the technical packages recommended by the extension services

Increase of production
Improvement of farmer incomes
Sustainable management of natural resources and preservation of the environment
Improvement of the farmer’s environment
Reduction of handling of chemical inputs

NGOs, private or public sector associations

Technical support
Research programme on production techniques, inputs, cropping systems adapted to organic farming

Develop a new sector having an impact at social level (improvement of rural population revenues) and economic level (increase in the volumes of exports, reduction of imports or chemical inputs)

International organizations (operating in the fields of food security, economic development and environmental conservation)

Provide financial support to the programmes of NGOs, associations and the government

Reduction of poverty within the country by supporting local actions
Preservation of the environment Improvement of consumption of tropical products in producing and importing countries

Contact details of players in the Cameroonian organic sector


Export Agro sarl
Jean-Martin Tetang
Tel./Fax 237-374507
[email protected]
[email protected]

Namekon Marie
Tel./Fax 237-390494
Email: [email protected]

Gic Terre Espoir
Tel./Fax 237-475207

Malhedy Homer
Tel. 237-420844

Macefcoop Ltd
Fax 237-341278/341382

Fruit Bioca
Martin Sop
Tel. 237-421961
Email: [email protected]

Tel. 237-426139/422035
Fax 237-422035

Support structures and technical assistance

Tel. 237-316702
Fax 237-319578

ASPABIC (extensionists)
Philomène Bomia
Tel. 237-439126
Fax 237-374507

Tel. 237-492278
Fax 237-374507

Tel. 237-915763
Fax 237-374507

Tel. 237-753480

Achille Bikoi
Tel. 237-427129

Certification bodies

P. Bomia
Tel. 237-439126
Email: [email protected]

IMO suisse
Tel. 071-6449880
Fax 071-6449883

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