The world’s poorest 47 countries could be sitting on farming goldmines, according to a new report to the United Nations.
The goldmines are little-known local plants that could become major export products.
“Many of the world's other 47 Least Developed Countries (LCDs) possess unique foodstuffs that could find lucrative export markets,” is the way the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development says it in a news release.
"Natural, heritage products, if protected and marketed well, could become a bigger source of revenue for many LDCs," UNCTAD expert Stefano Inama said.
"Many of these countries are dangerously dependent on commodity exports and must diversify their economies."
A new UNCTAD report, launched on 12 December, discovered a wealth of irreplaceable products waiting for better organized commercialization such as unusual coffee varieties and aromatic volcanic honey from Ethiopia, salted mullet roe from Mauritania, goat meat from Mozambique and Bhutanese red rice from Bhutan, high in the Himalayan mountains.
A key instrument in both the protection and marketing of such goods is "Geographical Indication", a standard obtained for products that are uniquely tied to where they are made, grown or harvested, the news release says.
GIs are part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) run by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"LDCs face considerable challenges when implementing GIs because of still precarious institutions and regulatory frameworks," the report explains. But "a number of LDCs have requested UNCTAD to examine the option of using GIs as a tool to enhance trade and reduce poverty."
An UNCTAD feasibility project requested by Senegal, for example, looked at improving the livelihoods of women who process and market fruit juices, syrups, and marmalades in the Lower-Casamance region.
The study found that, while the women have been able to upgrade their buildings and machinery to raise standards, more needs to be done to verify compliance, identify niche markets and speed up the granting of GI status.
Kampot pepper from Cambodia serves as an example of what can be done.
This spice, renowned for its fresh flavour, was granted GI status in 2010 and the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association was set up to manage and market the crop.
"Our peppercorn sells at a high price and has been recognised as the finest quality pepper because we follow the association’s guidelines," Phok Ly, a farmer with 3,000 pepper trees, told The Phnom Penh Post. He said the association’s efforts to maintain quality have resulted in higher incomes for its members.
In February 2016, the European Union officially entered the name "Kampot pepper" into its register of protected designations of origin, largely because its success has led to a rise in fake Kampot pepper being sold.
The study was presented in Geneva on Monday.