Many areas of Africa are well-adapted to growing fresh produce that is in demand in Europe. Such areas have many advantages over alternative locations. These include a year-round growing season and soils that require only traditional fertilisers such as cow dung. Aviation allows these advantages to be fully realised by providing a route to development that would otherwise be closed.
Supplying fresh vegetable products provides one of the few channels by which consumers in the UK and Europe interact economically with parts of Africa. An estimated 50-60,000 small-scale producers and larger farms are supported by fresh fruit and vegetable exports to the UK. As a result, taking into account families and local suppliers, as many as 1-1.5 million livelihoods may depend in part on the supply chain that links production on African soil to consumption in the UK. This trade with the UK alone injects an estimated $320 million into rural economies in Africa each year.
Blue Skies Ghana is an organisation dedicated to the development of sustainable agriculture, providing training and support for over 150 farmers, 78 of whom are small-holder organic farmers. Blue Skies’ fresh-cut fruit factory employs 1,700 people and, through wages alone, injects over $3.2 million into the local community every year. The company accounts for around 1% of Ghana’s total exports. The current 5% growth of African economies is due partly to agricultural exports sent around the globe by successful companies like Blue Skies.
While some consumers are reluctant to buy produce that has not been “grown locally” due to perceived environmental impacts, fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers grown in Africa can in many cases have a smaller carbon footprint (despite the travel), due to more efficient growing conditions. The people whose livelihoods depend on such trade also appreciate the business, often using profits to fund community projects, such as providing clean water or education.
Aviation: the Real World Wide Web, Oxford Economics 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/5tubvpc), and Fair Miles, Re-charting the Food Miles Map, IIED and Oxfam, Page 10, 2009: http://tinyurl.com/6u9vrba