Mountain Fruits Pvt Ltd.
Product: Dried fruits, nuts and edible oil
FLO ID: 4107
Year Fairtrade Certified: 2005
Individual Members: 2,474
Organisation type: Smallholder
Mountain Fruit Company was established in 2000 and is the first processor and exporter of Fairtrade and organic certified dry fruit, nuts and edible oil in Pakistan. The company was conceived by the founder director Mr. Sher Ghazi as a project of Aga Khan Rural Support Program. The project was registered as a private limited company in 2004. Since November 2007, the company is owned by Mr. Sher Ghazi, Mr. Adam Brett, Ms. Kate Sebang and Mr. Richard Friend.
The cooperative is located in the valleys among the Kara Krum, Himalayas and Hindukush mountain ranges in Gilgit Baltistan region. The world highest mountains and the longest glaciers are located in these mountain ranges. The glacier’s melted water makes its way through the valleys where the villages are located.
Today the cooperative produces dried cherries, dried apricots wholes, dried apricots wild, dried apples, walnuts, almonds, apricot kernels, and nut seed oils. Each farmer grows different varieties of fruits; they are for example harvesting over 50 different varieties of apricots every year.
A farmer picking fresh organic apricot for drying (Hunza Valley). © Fairtrade Dryfruits (Pvt) Limited.
Before they became Fairtrade certified, farmers did not have access to regional and national market and agents would visit them during fruiting season and book crops at a minimum price by paying 10% in advance. When fruits were harvested the agents would come and pay the balance amount. In this way, the farmers were paid 50% of the market value for the crop. The cooperative realised this and thought the Fairtrade system could be a better option for them.
The company has 2,474 Fairtrade producers consisting of 2,039 male and 436 female farmers organized into 63 male and 10 female Fairtrade producer groups. The mission of the cooperative is to support small farmers through the Fairtrade system and give suitable training in horticulture management, organic farming and techniques of fruit drying to the people in mountain valleys of Northern Pakistan.
The region is prone to earthquakes, rain, other natural disasters and communal conflicts, and all these problems makes the area unattractive for traders. The Fairtrade contract production system provides the farmers with an opportunity to sell their dried fruits and nuts to local Fairtrade-certified processors. Then farmers receive a Fairtrade Minimum Price. Mountain Fruit Company processes the fruits to international standards and pack for bulk shipment in 15 kg vacuum packs to export.
Fairtrade Benefits/ Premium
The prices the farmers receive for their dried fruits has increased after Mountain Fruits joined Fairtrade in 2005. Farmers who were cutting fruit trees for winter fuels are now planting more fruit trees because it is now beneficial to cultivate fruit.
The villages are organized into seven valley based Fairtrade Associations which are governed by Producers Executive Body (PEB), registered as Mountain Area Fruit Farmers Association (MonAFFA). The first Premium project was initiated in 2008. They have invested in schools and fruit trees and in the future their plan is to focus on quality education for their children and start health insurance schemes.
Woman & community
Cherry drying. © Fairtrade Dryfruits (Pvt) Limited.
Mountain Fruits has a unique cherry drying program for ladies. Ever y ear, 150 female workers are recruited for seasonal labor and they work in the two processing facilities. The cooperative has trained the women to dry the organic cherries and the dried cherries are sold for a high price through Fairtrade. There is a traditional reluctance to send women to work, however Mountain Fruits has managed to provide a working environment with dignity.
Community participating in a Fairtrade meeting with PEB discussing cherry drying plan (Hunza Valley. © Fairtrade Dryfruits (Pvt) Limited
The farmers who are in the Fairtrade program are motivated to educate their children. The Aga Khan Education Services has a network of English medium schools, EECD projects, Early Childhood Development Schooling programs and high standard academies for boys and girls.
The training in organic fruits and nuts production added value to the process in growing fruits and nuts in the region. Most of the farmers are organic producers and the cooperative hope to convert 100% of the producers into organic cultivation by 2020.
Women Producers Group receiving Fairtrade Premium Cheque for an ECD school (Hunza Valley) © Fairtrade Dryfruits (Pvt) Limited.
Mountain Fruits uses solar energy to dry their fruits in the field and utilises the maximum amount of solar energy they are capable of at the processing centers. There is a motivation among the producers to use renewable energy at home.
As a climate adaptation measure from glacier melting, the cooperative is planting more trees as well.