2018 Sep 4
Established in 1993, Bio Foods (Pvt.) Ltd. paved the way to change the culture of agrochemical ridden conventional farming, by starting chemical-free organic crop cultivation. This was combined with a fair trade model of treating farmers, where no matter the season, their cost of production was covered and they were always paid an additional premium over market-price to help them maintain a decent quality of life. This company started out as a family-owned export business based in Kandy, run for 25 years by its visionary founder and Chairman Dr. Ananda Sarath Ranaweera. Today, this company has grown to be one of the world leaders in biodynamic, organic and fair- trade agriculture. As they celebrate their 25th anniversary, they have grown to be leading exporters of tea, spices and coconut products.
From its very inception, Bio Foods implemented fair trade standards (even before international regulatory body, the Fairtrade Labelling Organization, was established) to protect their farmers from market prices ﬂuctuations and middle-man exploitation. This is one of the many things that differentiates them and makes them leaders in modern sustainable agriculture. Their business model spans from directly training and certifying underprivileged farmer groups in many rural parts of Sri Lanka, to their own certiﬁed processing plants to packing units. It is unusual for a single company to manage everything from the farmer-level to the ﬁnal value-added product, in a transparent, sustainable (for both environment and workers) manner.
With their goal of leaving behind clean air, water and soil for all living things, present and future, Bio Foods has always believed in clean, agro-chemically uncontaminated produce. The avid commitment to this target of sustainability is perhaps why they carry the most international certiﬁcations (organic, biodynamic, and ethical certiﬁcates) of any company in the country. These certiﬁcations mean that an international regulatory body carries out annual audits and inspections to make sure that all the very rigorous criteria of the certiﬁcations are met. This is the sort of standard maintenance that local authorities have not yet consolidated. In order to call a product “Certiﬁed Organic”, all stages of preparing that product, from production, processing, and packing, along with the distributing agent, have to comply with the rules and regulations that accompany the certiﬁcation displayed. This contributes to ensuring overall coherence and a proper functioning the certiﬁcation, and consequently establish trust and knowledge in the consumer of what they are purchasing is a truly organic product. Due to his longstanding commitment towards this vision and ethical standing, the founder and Chairman of Bio Foods, Dr. Ranaweera, won the ﬁrst ever “World’s Fairest Fairtrade Award”, presented by the World Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) itself. Presented in 2014 in Bonn, Germany, this was a proud moment for Sri Lanka, as he was selected from over 80 worthy candidates who were recognized for their special efforts or innovations within the global fair-trade system.
In addition, the Marginalized Organic Producers’ Association (MOPA) that was founded by the chairman was also recognized as the best small producer organization in Asia, 2014. MOPA directly collaborates with over 7400 farmer families to bring internationally certiﬁed organic, fair trade and biodynamic food to the world via Bio Foods, because as previously mentioned, they have been exporters for the last 25 years. In fact, Bio Foods was the ﬁrst company in the world to export certiﬁed organic, bio dynamic and fair trade spices. They continue to supply for several very large organic brands in Europe (primarily) and North America, with a market that is ever expanding as the world population gets increasingly more educated and conscious of their health.
Now, as part of their milestone 25 year celebrations, Bio Foods is launching a range of products marketed under their own brand. This is a part of their Chairman’s initiative to give back to the people of the land that they harvest their wonderful produce from. These products range from teas, spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables, coconut products, to whole grains, and will be accessible to the a discerning, ethically minded, health conscious consumers in Sri Lanka. They also plan to introduce the exact same products to the international audience as well, because at Bio Foods they believe that the #organicway is for everyone, no matter where they are from.
Their 25th year is one of many landmarks. In addition to their ﬁrst ever name brand, they also recently partnered up with GLS Bank Germany, the world’s ﬁrst socioecological bank, and now the largest green- bank in Europe. They are known to have always invested in projects that impact the environment positively, and hold a pioneering position in ﬁnancing renewable energy projects. In addition, they also fund agricultural businesses like The Seed Fund, which supports foundations and companies in the organic sector as well as organic seed research and development. GLS also has a trust built from money donated for good causes, which they then invest in organic farming companies and projects that have social responsibility at heart. Due to the globally unparalleled scale of the vision, the direct social impact that Bio Foods has had on a large number of farmers, along with the congruence in the end goals of both companies, GLS Bank has decided (in a very infrequent move on their part), to invest outside of Europe, in Sri Lanka. This new partnership with Bio Foods and GLS Bank is a relationship with a wonderful mission.
Together, they have formed a charitable trust, where a sizable portion of their yearly dividends will be spent on educating the children and farmers of the rural communities with they work. The decision was made to focus singularly on education, as it is something that no one can take away from the people, is something that can be passed on to the future generations, and because it is something that can spread. Together, this partnership promises to pave a beautiful road for everyone involved, and sets the stage for Bio Foods to be a global leader in the organic and sustainable agriculture industry.