Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community

Organic Q&A

Photo: Fabienne Gandet with products certified through Bio Caledonia 

This is an excerpt of an interview with Fabienne Gandet, owner of BIOMONDE Robinson in Mont Dore, New Caledonia. BIOMONDE located along the main expressway running past the town of Mont Dore in the South Province of New Caledonia is a delightful find of organic bites, aromatics, nuts, spices, oils, coffees, honey and fruit spreads. You can also buy home grown vegetables and fruits organically certified by Bio Caledonia, New Caledonia’s organic participatory guarantee system. Since opening its doors in February 2015, sales have been booming.

What type of buying trends have you observed?
There are new organic consumers coming in for little things like oil, products for the skin and step by step they come to try other product and make larger purchases.

While chatting with your customers have you gleaned why they choose to buy organic?
Obviously people know about pesticide problems and a lot of other diseases related to eating habits and so on…. The thing is the price of the organic product is the challenge. There needs to be more help from governments to make it more easy to produce organic products, to help with transport and packaging, things like that. This will make it more affordable for people at the point of sale. People want to buy organics but sometimes it’s quite expensive for them.

Did you grow up in New Caledonia?
No I grew up in France but I’ve been here for 10 years.

What got you into organics?
It seems like just obvious when you see all the disease and soil problems and very bad agriculture that we lead everywhere in the world and it seems like we have to do something and I had the opportunity to set up Bio Caledonia in New Caledonia and it’s all very new and nice project buts it’s all about patience. I have a background in agriculture as a qualified engineer.
As a student and when I started to work, I was exposed to conventional farming and when I started to work obviously there were conventional products everywhere.
We can taste the difference between conventional and organic products and since I am eating almost only organic products now, I obviously just feel better. I eat less sugar and less bad things and am discovering again the taste of a lot of products that we forget before because the conventional ones are so bad like carrots.
Conventional carrots are no taste at all unlike the organic ones – I eat it and it’s a discovery whoa it’s a carrot!

How are consumers influencing organic market forces in the Pacific?
Well it’s difficult to say because I think there is a movement. Many products like coconut oil are really selling well because a few publications about organic coconut oil came out and a lot of people started to use that in cooking. But they don’t really know why so they just read about its benefits and started using it. So people just want to improve their health, they are afraid of diseases and so forth so want to eat healthy. Now its organic coconut oil and two months’ time they will move to another thing and leave me with a stock of coconut oil (laughing out loud).
Really medical people should be more aware of organic agriculture benefits and introduce that to their patients.
I have some medical personnel as customers but not so many and it’s quite the irony because they are supposed to be promoting healthy living and eating.

Key Message for Pacific Islanders
Go on and save the soil and save the islands and save the climate. The consumers are out there, they will wait for what you grow in an organic manner.
When I opened the shop nobody thought that it would be a good idea because this is a small town and not many people but in the end I’m happy because a lot of people are becoming aware and buying organic.


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