Lotao has been producing and selling exotic and sustainably grown foods from Asia for 10 years now. In addition to unusual organic rice specialties, organic sugar specialties and snacks, the range also includes a unique range of jackfruit products. Lotao founder Stefan Fak recognized the potential of the tree fruit from India early on: thanks to its meat-like texture, good nutritional values and because the power fruit easily absorbs spices and flavors, it serves as an optimal meat substitute when cooking. Since the jackfruit is traditionally seen as a 'poor man's fruit' in India, there has been no structured cultivation and only a few trees, primarily for home use. Just over a year ago, Lotao set itself the goal of building an environmentally friendly and socially responsible supply chain for the production of uniform, organic-certified and high-quality jackfruit from small farmers in India. And it has been successful: To date, a total of 15,000 trees have been distributed for planting, 103 of the jackfruit farmers involved have been certified organic, 346 farmers have been trained in organic cultivation and distribution centers and new cold storage facilities have been set up for storage and better logistics. The number of jackfruit farmers in the cooperative has increased from 80 to 139, with sales increasing by 50%. The project is supported and implemented together with the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) and an agricultural foundation in Bangalore. The project is aimed at all small farmers participating in the cooperative, who from now on can meet the constant demand for jackfruit efficiently and competitively with new tools.
Since Lotao was founded in 2010, the company has placed particular emphasis on transparent supply chains and fairly and sustainably produced food. In particular, the interaction and close relationship with the farmers is a top priority. The extensive exotic range has since built a culinary bridge between Asia and Europe and enables easy access to products that are still little known in this country. The extensive and constantly expanding jackfruit product range 'Lotao Green' shows the versatility of the power fruit's applications, enables uncomplicated preparation and therefore also the best possible
easy integration into everyday life. In addition to natural jackfruit, there are also ready-made curries, chips or snack pots - add hot water and you're done!
Since the jackfruit in India has so far been seen as a 'poor man's fruit', farmers have usually only planted a few trees and the fruits are primarily used to cover their own needs. The value chain was also characterized by a disorganized supply, inconsistent quality, large genetic variations in semi-wild tree populations and the as yet unrecognized diversity of uses for pre-cut vegetables. Jackfruit waste is also a previously under-recognized rich, affordable ingredient for animal feed and a key ingredient for compost. In order to make sustainable use of the fruit's great potential and to support local farmers, Lotao set itself the task of standardizing production in 2019 and building an environmentally friendly and socially responsible supply chain.
Working with a family-run agricultural foundation in Bangolore, India, Lotao developed a business plan for the new jackfruit supply chain. Since 2005, the 1,200 participating small farmers have been supplying the cooperative with agricultural crops and spices, which in turn processes them and sells them to the domestic and export market. The project term ends in January 2021 and the success is already visible. A manager was hired to offer training and advice on organic farming and to organize administration. A total of 103 farmers have already received organic certification, three distribution centers have been set up to improve logistics and a new jackfruit processing line to ensure faster and easier processing of the fruit. In addition, 346 farmers in six areas were trained on organic farming. The number of farmers selling their fruit to the cooperative has increased from 80 to 139. Sales increased by 50%. In addition, Lotao invested in local nurseries to produce 15,000 seedlings of selected varieties. These were distributed to support the farmers and to secure harvest volumes for the next two to five years. From now on, the logistics, storage and production rooms will be continued and expanded by the cooperative. In this way, Lotao has managed to give farmers sustainable access to new cultivation methods in order to be able to meet increasing demand efficiently and competitively from now on.
“The development aid project is a strong measure that connects us as partners with the farmers and the local cooperative. The effects of the project are very multifaceted: on the one hand, the farmers get a chance for new jobs and better working conditions, and on the other hand, the environment will benefit in the long term,” explains Pavel Petrov, Head of Development Project and Finance & Controlling at Lotao. “For me personally, working on the project is a matter of the heart because, above all, you get to know real people and not just mere statistics and do good things together with them.”