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Sourcing Food Products From Developing Countries to Integrate Underserved Communities in the Global Supply Chain

A food product distributor is supporting small to medium farmers to give them fair prices, product development support and access to international markets.

Published 12-26-18

Submitted by Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Ethical food sourcing company Coconut Merchant has signed on as Business Call to Action (BCtA)’s newest member, with a commitment to focus on sourcing food products from underserved communities and farmers in developing countries to provide sustainable income, and new routes for their products to international markets.

Since starting operations in 2014, Coconut Merchant has seen rapid growth, supported by growing demand for healthy, natural products.  They now have the world’s largest range of coconut products and are distributed in major supermarkets, department stores and online retailers in the United Kingdom.

With ethical sourcing core to their business since their inception, BCtA membership has formalised their commitment to expand and support the industrialization of 12 small scale suppliers in Sri Lanka and Thailand by 2022. They have also committed to directly purchase food products from 52 small to medium farmers to provide sustainable incomes in the selected markets, amongst other plans to boost cooperatives and opportunities for trade with small holder famers.  If successful, this will have a direct positive impact on the lives of over 10,000 people, simply through the commitment of one company.

Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$10 per day in purchasing power (in 2015 dollars) as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For many small farmers in developing countries, it is difficult to compete with large scale providers of food products in local and international markets. These farmers often have no reach beyond their local communities, and they rely on selling their products to wholesalers who may not repurchase their products, or will assign low prices to the farmers’ produce.  Coconut Merchant’s commitments provides them access to regular purchase orders and income security, allowing them to plan and invest in future of their families.

With global competition for export markets intensifying, the farmers do not have the resources needed to sustainably grow their businesses and income.  Again, Coconut Merchant’s commitments enables them to keep up with global demand trends and production standards, allowing them to remain competitive.

Viewing the challenges faced by farmers in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, Coconut Merchant was driven to develop a business model where all parties in the supply chain will benefit. They are driven by the mantra “Trade not Just Aid”; acknowledging that there are times when aid is needed, but focusing on developing models that would allow for sustainable economic development through true trade partnerships.  By their model, ultimately farmers are empowered with more selling leverage and support to create new and innovative products that can join the global supply chain.
 “Ethical sourcing has always been core to what we do, however our membership with BCtA means our practices can be formalised into measurable goals.  We’re focused on developing true partnerships with small scale farmers and producers, enabling them and providing sustainable incomes” comments Al Shariat, Director at Coconut Merchant. He further explains, “our ultimate goal is to develop a business model where everyone benefits, from farmers right through to our customers, and results in sustainable economic development.  The BCtA is perfectly in line with that mission.” 

Paula Pelaez, Head of Business Call to Action, said that Coconut Merchant was using an excellent business model and strategy for growth that could be replicated globally.

“Coconut Merchant has identified a need that is shared by many small communities across the world, and the company is working towards promoting inclusive and sustainable communities where farmers and other persons are given the chance to own their destiny and be in control of their financial status. BCtA is pleased to have Coconut Merchant on board, as we celebrate initiatives that encourage the development of inclusive societies, and the creation of economically empowered communities,” Ms Pelaez said.

For further information: 
BCtA membership does not constitute a partnership with its funding and programme partners, UNDP or any UN agency.

About Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched at the United Nations in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For more information, please visit

About Coconut Merchant: Coconut Merchant specialises in providing quality coconut products.  They have the world’s largest range of coconut products, with listing in supermarkets, health stores and online retailers, and growing international distribution.  The quality of its products has been recognised by numerous industry awards, and demand for their products continues to grow.  The company also collaborates with international partners and cooperatives to develop new products, while also opening up its partners to new products, trends, and markets.  Coconut Merchant’s mission is to share products that are in every way, packed with love - ethically sourced quality products, which are packed and delivered to customers with love.

Business Call to Action (BCtA) logo

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Launched in 2008, the Business Call to Action (BCtA) aims to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. Worldwide, over 60 companies have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through commercially-viable business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services.

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