Middle East and North Africa

First certified producer in the Middle East and North Africa

Name of organisation: Al Shams Agro Group

Fairtrade since: 1999

Products: oranges and orange juice, pomegranate juice, tomato juice and paste, strawberries and strawberry juice

Fruit and juices organisation Al Shams Agro Group was, in 1999, the first certified producer in the Middle East and North Africa region. It was attracted to Fairtrade to increase sales, bring sustainable income to its workers and because it saw the Fairtrade minimum price as fair and attractive.

The Egyptian Hired labour farm produces oranges, orange juice, pomegranate juice, tomato juice and paste, strawberries and strawberry juice.  It has a huge juice factory.

Premium projects include establishing a bread bakery with proceeds shared among the workers. There is a subsidized canteen and a football pitch.

As Fairtrade members representatives have taken part in capacity building workshops and pan African events, including the 2010 African Assembly in Zimbabwe and the Africa Fairtrade Convention in Ghana the following year. The Convention gave them a platform to exhibit which enhanced their visibility, as the event was well attended by traders and potential buyers.

The organisation has experienced falling sales of its Fairtrade volumes, but still remains certified, in the words of its Fairtrade officer Lofty Shawky, “for the long haul”. “Through Fairtrade we have seen an improvement of workers’ commitment to production, in terms of quality and quantity. The environmental conditions of the farms have improved and the farm in general has become a fair and nice place to work in,” he adds.

Last year Al Shams added a new juice factory to its Fairtrade certificate, hopeful that this will lead to additional Fairtrade sales.