BCI said the recognition will promote more sustainable Greek cotton farming. Greece is the largest cotton-producing country in Europe, with more than 45,000 registered cotton farmers. Cotton is planted on approximately 270,000 hectares, representing 10 percent of the total agricultural land.
Farmers certified under the AGRO-2 standards who elect to participate in the BCI program will now be eligible to sell their cotton as Better Cotton from the 2020-21 cotton season. By the end of 2022, it is estimated that 5,000 farmers will be growing AGRO-2 licensed cotton, equivalent to Better Cotton, on 40,000 hectares, producing around 185,000 bales.
The AGRO-2 Integrated Management Standards were developed by the national Hellenic Agricultural Organization ELGO-DEMETER, a statutory body under the Ministry of Rural Development and Food. ELGO-DEMETER and the Inter-Branch Organization of Greek Cotton (DOV)–jointly ELGO-DOV–partner to promote and implement the AGRO-2 standards for Greek cotton production.
“We are delighted to be working with ELGO-DOV as a strategic partner and welcome Greece as a new BCI equivalent standard,” BCI CEP Alan McClay said. “By bringing the two systems together, Greek cotton will be able to contribute to improved farmer livelihoods while increasing the profile of the country’s more sustainable cotton production.”
The benchmarking of the AGRO-2 standards to the Better Cotton Standard System is the culmination of several years of engagement and preparation. The process began in 2017 following interest expressed by Greek stakeholders.
BCI worked with the Sustainable Trade Initiative to explore the possibility of a BCI program in Greece. With initial funding from the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund, a series of stakeholder consultations and assessments were conducted in line with BCI’s benchmarking and start-up process. After an independent comparison of the standards and a comprehensive gap analysis, a viable path toward benchmarking AGRO-2 with the BCSS was identified.
Following a thorough benchmarking review of the six components of the BCSS, modifications were made to the AGRO-2 standards to ensure alignment. Upon completion, Greece began the official BCI country startup process, culminating in the signing of a Strategic Partnership Agreement between BCI and ELGO-DOV to recognize AGRO-2 certified cotton as equivalent to Better Cotton.
BCI, a global not-for-profit organization, is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. The BCSS is BCI’s holistic approach to sustainable cotton production covering three pillars of sustainability–environmental, social and economic.
AGRO-2 promotes integrated management of agricultural holdings to make combined use of all means to reduce inputs and achieve the best possible financial outcome for farmers. Farms and producer groups are enabled and encouraged to set goals and measure their progress toward better farming methods and practices.