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Organic certification a must, but cumbersome process

It is expensive and time-consuming, but it helps consumers tell the genuine from the fake
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST

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To confirm whether a product is truly organic, consumers should look for Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s organic logo (Jaivik Bharat) and FSSAI Logo License number. The label may also carry India Organic Logo (NPOP certified) or PGS-India Organic Logo (PGS-India certified) under whichever system it is certified.

As per the FSSAI guidelines, one has to be certified under one of the two systems unless the product is being sold directly to the end consumer by the small original producer or producer organisations. However, the process to achieve these certifications is strenuous.

Organic certification

Aditi Organics, one of the 29 certification agencies recognised by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) recently released a report titled, ‘The Organic Quotient’.

They surveyed nearly 550 consumers across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad to provide a snapshot of their awareness around organic products, purchase patterns, and more.

The survey found that 70% of buyers were not aware of looking for a certified organic logo while purchasing organic products. 57% of those who don’t buy organic produce cited the inability to identify genuine products as a reason.

Anil Nadig, co-founder, Jivabhumi, a community-supported agriculture initiative, says certification is to ensure that the entire value chain system, from farmer to consumer, follows organic practices.

In order to sell domestically or export these produce as ‘organic’, it has to go through the certification process.

Getting an organic certification is not easy. The third-party organic certification system under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) not only takes three years but is also expensive.

For those growing annual crops such as ragi, paddy or vegetables, the conversion period before it can be called ‘fully organic’ is two years, while for those growing perennial crops such as mango, coconut, the conversion period is three
years.

“A risk assessment is carried out in the beginning and during this conversion period the farmers are expected to maintain a record of their practises and other data,” says Narayana Upadhyaya, managing director, Aditi Organics.

The cost to obtain the certification can cost anywhere between Rs 12,000 to 20,000 per annum for one acre to 50 acres of land for a single farmer for a year.

In 2015, the central government launched the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS-India). This mode of certification follows a peer-review system and is more cost-effective.

Vishala Padmanabhan of Buffalo Back Collective and Participative Guarantee System – Organic Council, says that the PSG system allows farmers and consumers to run the system, as opposed to the industry players.

The process of getting certified includes documentation, followed by an audit of the processes followed and records maintained.

Group certification is another mode of authenticating organic food where a set of small farmers/ producer organisation/ cooperative can come together to get a certification.

This mode is significantly cheaper, costing Rs 32,000 to 42,000 per annum, which would set each farmer in a 500-member group by only Rs 150-Rs 200. The only condition they must fulfill is that all the farmers must belong to the same geography and follow the same farming system.

Each farmer that is authorised to produce organically is handed a scope certificate by APEDA.

This applies to traders, processors and brands/aggregators involved as well. At each level of purchase, a transaction certificate is also provided to ensure accountability.

Every year, the license is renewed. At the time, the farmer is expected to update the practices and submit them for review. These details are cross-verified, and instances of non-conformity can lead to the farmer losing his certification, says Narayana.

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Published 02 July 2021, 18:36 IST

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