Organic Food certification
With rising health consciousness and change in lifestyle organic food has emerged as the biggest revolution and food trend. In general organic food is certified through a certification process since organic farming differs from the conventional farming in terms of the whole agricultural process from ploughing to sowing. It is not mere avoiding chemicals but a comprehensive set of procedure. Thus there exist a range of certifications for the organic produce. In India there exist two type of certifications for organic produce. To have consonance with the international standards, the following bodies were formed in India to take steps to identify organic products and certify them:
- Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) for implementing the National Programme on Organic Production (NPOP)-2001
- National Centre for Organic Farming (NCOF) for implementing the Participatory Guarantee System in India-2016. Farm produce certification by APEDA-
1. Large-scale farmers or small size landholder growers groups (minimum of 25 and maximum of 500 farmers who possess land in the same geographical area) can apply for organic certification of their produce. It is pertinent to note that the certification is provided to produce and not the land. APEDA offers an internet-based e-service called Tracenet to collect, record and report data on organic certification. It is also used to trace any organic produce all the way to the farm from anywhere in the supply chain.
2. The organic certification process is carried out by accredited bodies under NPOP, accredited by NAB. There are 28 agencies accredited by APEDA. These certifying agencies verify farms, storages and processing units. Products certified organic by them carry the India organic logo.
3. Processed Food- NPOP- Separate standards are for handling, packaging, processing and storage. In India, section 3.5 of the NPOP lays down the general principles, recommendations and specific requirements for the use of organic labeling and claims. The labeling should convey unambiguous and accurate information on the product’s organic status.
Farm produce certification under PGS– PGS-India is implemented by the National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) under the National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India. PGS-India is a process based certification wherein a group certifies that its members are growing food organically. PGS-India controls the quality system through internal QMS through Farmer Grower Group Certification (GGC) instead of a certifying agency.
NPOP certification based on Export and Import
National Programme on Organic Production (NPOP) defines the regulatory mechanism and is regulated under two different acts for export and domestic markets.
NPOP notified under Foreign Trade Development and Regulation Act (FTDR) looks after the export requirement. The NPOP notified under this act has already been granted equivalence by European Union and Sweden. USDA has also accepted the conformity assessment system of NPOP. Due to this, the product certified by any Indian accredited certification agency under NPOP can be exported to Europe, Sweden and USA without the requirement of re-certification. To look after the requirement of import and domestic market the same NPOP has been notified under Agriculture Produce Grading, Marking and Certification Act (APGMC).
Due to the equivalence commanded by the NPOP certification in several developed countries and its third party verification system, it has remained a preferred choice. However it is an expensive process as compared to PGS certification. Thus the government should explore the possibility of bilateral agreement with the countries showing interest in procuring the same for facilitating export of PGS certified organic produce since it provides level playing field to the marginal and small farmers.
Another possibility exists for extending interoperability between the two certifications operational in India viz. NPOP and PGS certification. India is at the cusp of organic revolution as per FIBL & IFOAM Organics International Year Book 2018 India is ranked 9th in in terms of World’s Organic Agricultural land and 1st in terms of total number of organic producers. As per APEDA database, India produced around 1.70 million metric tonnes (2017-18) of certified organic products in 2017-18.