ITC and the Graduate Institute launch ‘superfood’ partnership

14 August 2015
ITC News
Research partnership to explore opportunities and challenges for South-South trade in biodiversity-based products from Latin America.

Demand for biodiversity-based products has grown rapidly in recent years, as consumers in developed countries seek out ‘superfoods’ such as quinoa and chia. Such demand offers significant export opportunities for rural communities in Latin America. If complemented by the right policies, biodiversity-based food exports can play an important role in improving local livelihoods and creating incentives for environmental protection.

In a similar fashion, biodiversity-based products could potentially find new customers in the growing markets of the global south. However, companies in Latin America, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), often lack the information they need to successfully reach these markets. To break into a new market, companies need to understand market barriers and requirements like tariffs and food safety regulations, as well as market sizes and consumer preferences and related niches to target.

To respond to developing country SMEs seeking advice on how to access markets for biodiversity-based products in other developing countries, the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Trade and Environment Programme (TEP) has entered into a research partnership with the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID). Under the IHEID Applied Research Seminar (ARS) programme, master students carry out an applied research under the joint guidance of partner organizations and faculty of The Graduate Institute.

‘In addition to delivering useful research contributing to economic opportunities, the initiative will provide hands-on experience to students while representing an outstanding opportunity for ITC to partner with a leading institution of research and higher education in development studies,’ said Alex Kasterine, Head of ITC’s TEP.

The potential of South-South trade

The research project, entitled ‘The potential of South-South trade – challenges and opportunities for exporters of ‪‎biodiversity‬-based products from ‪‎Peru‬, ‪‎Ecuador‬ and ‪Colombia’, is being developed by students of the master’s programme in Development Studies with the guidance of TEP experts. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Research will focus on biodiversity products originating from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia such as fine and aromatic cocoa, quinoa, maca, chia seeds and tamarillo, and the potential for exports to other southern countries, whether in the Latin American region, Africa or Asia.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This research can be regarded as a starting point to highlight the potential of South-South trade for biodiversity products. It will seek to inform governments and export promotion agencies about the challenges faced by would-be exporters in the selected countries, while identifying best practices of SMEs exporting to developing countries. A final report will be presented in December 2015 with the findings of a survey of exporters from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia on their perceptions on the challenges and opportunities for South-South trade of the aforementioned products.


Learn more about ITC’s Trade and Environment Programme.