These certifications indicate that Dümmen group has complied with or exceeded exacting MPS standards on both Environmental and Good Agricultural Practices.
BackgroundIn the ornamental floriculture industry, where offshore production facilities in Central America and Africa are the norm, and environmental and labour laws might be thought of as more relaxed compared to northern countries, it is crucial that companies rigorously police themselves to ensure best practices are followed. This is where the certification organization MPS comes in.
MPS was launched in 1993 in The Netherlands with a focus on reducing the environmental impact of growing. Since then, it has widened its focus to include safety and the social aspect at certified companies.
Detailed information on its certifying process and certificates is available at the MPS website www.mymps.com, but for Dümmen group, three levels are pertinent.
MPS-ABC is the environmental scorecard, for which growers are benchmarked on five themes: use of crop protection agents, fertilizers, energy, water and recycling. The goal of MPS ABC is to improve the environmental footprint through continuous improvement in the production process on all five themes.
MPS-GAP relates to a variety of aspects concerning production. For example, the correct use and application of crop protection agents and traceability during the total production and shipping process is a key measure.
MPS-SQ (Socially Qualified) refers to safe and rewarding working conditions, with a focus on the general health welfare of the labour force (based on standards set by the UN’s International Labor Organization) and equal treatment of men and women during production.
Las MercedesSince opening in 2008, Las Mercedes has always been at the forefront o innovation for environmental and safety concerns. Here is a sampling of key actions taken.
1. Water use: Las Mercedes uses a hydroponic system that minimizes the loss of water and fertilizer from the system. Water is recycled using slow sand filters and UV. Rainwater is collected from our roofs and infiltrated back into the soil; this returns more water to the natural system than used from the facility’s wells.
2. Chemicals: Las Mercedes adheres strictly to the MPS-permitted chemicals list, which excludes those with highly persistent half-lives. This means the farm does not use some chemicals that are allowed by the EU; the stricter MPS guidelines are followed. Another example of the conservative approach with chemicals at Las Mercedes is the decision to not apply neonics (neonicotinoids) to the spring annuals crops. While the scientific investigation into honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder continues, Las Mercedes leadership believes it is best to take this position; honeybees are important allies in agriculture.
3. Energy: Las Mercedes receives ample sunlight, and solar energy is being tested to supply significant power in the future. Geothermal energy was explored, but no useable heat exists in deep boreholes drilled on the site.
4. Chemical Storage: Working with MPS, Las Mercedes has increased and improved storage space for fertilizers and agrochemicals, with systems in place to maintain order and traceability.
5. Chemical Safety: Before starting the review with MPS, Las Mercedes already had a worker safety committee in place, which had completed a risk evaluation and developed an emergency evacuation plan. This committee routinely conducts safety talks with the labour force, and proactively monitors safety rule adherence during the workday.
6. Training and Enhancement: Work-related training is crucial, but so is training on a personal level. In the first six-months of 2014, 200 training sessions equalling roughly 9,600 labour hours have occurred. Subjects covered included on-the-job requirements, health, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking cessation, respiratory disease avoidance, motivation and selfesteem.
7. Medical Care: One of the hallmarks of Las Mercedes has been its onsite company medical clinic, staffed by a full-time nurse and attended by a general practitioner. There is also an agreement with the local Comandos de Salvamento (ambulance corps); Las Mercedes provides financial support and has an ambulance stationed at the farm to serve its employees, as well as the surrounding community.
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