India’s organic exports increased 51% to a record $ 1.04 billion in fiscal year 2020-2021 compared to the previous fiscal year. The increase came after organics shipments fell nine percent to $ 689 million in 2019-20, from $ 757 in 2018-19.

“Exports in 2019-2020 were affected by the Covid pandemic. Until then, exports of organic products have grown by more than 25% per year since 2016-2017, ”said M Angamuthu, president of the Authority for the Development of Exports of Agricultural and Processed Food Products (Apeda).

Since 2002-2003, exports of organic products have increased 80-fold, from $ 13 million to $ 1.04 billion.

“Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, exports of organic products increased by 25%, 40% and 47%, respectively,” said the president of Apeda. The authority acts as the secretariat for the National Organic Production Program (NPOP) which is implemented under the supervision of the Ministry of Commerce.

Characteristic of exports

One of the main reasons for the rapid growth in exports of organic products is that India has been able to demonstrate that it can meet the necessary compliance at every level of product handling and consistent supply, while contributing to the sustainability of the ecosystem.

“The strength and integrity gained over the years has paved the way for double-digit growth in organic exports. This has created a better market penetration of Indian organic products in major importing countries, ”said Angamuthu.

A feature of India’s organic exports is that the United States and the European Union (EU) are among the major markets.

“In 2020-21, our organic products were shipped to 58 countries, the main ones being the US, EU, UK, Canada and Switzerland. Exports are currently limited to raw and processed agricultural products including cakes, oil seeds, cereals, millets, sugar, fruit pulps, mash, plantation crops, spices and medicinal plants ”, he added. he declared.

Unique advantage

In the organic sector, India enjoys a unique advantage of having a wide range of climatic and geographic conditions. It has regions that are best suited for growing various types of field and horticultural crops.

According to agricultural experts, the need for an alternative such as organic products has arisen since the green revolution led to the indiscriminate use of chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers.

Organic agriculture not only supports the health of soils, ecosystems and people, but it combines tradition, innovation and science for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Although the principles of organic farming are followed and practiced in many parts of the country, the lack of certification has prevented them from being labeled as organic, said the president of Apeda.

Institutional mechanism

With increasing demand for certified products in developed countries, the Indian government has developed an institutional mechanism, NPOP, under the Foreign Trade Development Regulations Act of the General Directorate of Foreign Trade.

The adoption of an organized system through the NPOP is verified by a third party and these products have a premium in the world market, Angamuthu said, adding that organic certification and export started in India mainly to meet the needs. needs of the organized agricultural trade sectors.

“It was mainly in the plantation sector where product handlers were defined to ensure the source of the raw material. However, as demand for other products also increased in overseas markets, certification extended to other crops and agricultural products, ”he said.

‘A revolution’

The NPOP has grown over the years and now includes small and marginal farmers under the certification system. A producer group certification has been introduced to help a group of farmers collectively obtain certification at an affordable price. This will help them deliver large quantities of certified products, said the president of Apeda.

“A revolution has taken place in Indian organic farming as the certification of cultivable land has spread to 34 states and union territories. Under the NPOP, 1.36 million farmers are certified, making India the country with the largest number of producers in the world, ”said Angamuthu.

In addition, minor forest products such as medicinal plants, products like stem, flower, bark, root, bud and fruit are also certified “organic provided that the collection in the forest area is done. without affecting durability ”. The export of minor forest products meets the demands of the Ayurvedic, pharmacological and cosmetic industries, he said.

Pioneer of Tracenet

There was a challenge Apeda had to overcome in the export of organic products. As the acreage under certification increased as did the produce shipped from the country, the authority needed to ensure that each shipment could be traced back to the farm.

“So the application of the technology has been incorporated into the certification in the form of a label and also a web-based traceability system, Tracenet. was started to help track the movement of any organic product from one place to another. India is the pioneer in the development of such a traceability system for organic products around the world. Angamuthu said.

Currently, efforts are underway to expand product categories for organic livestock, poultry, aquaculture and beekeeping. There is also a demand for organic feed in the organic livestock and poultry farming industry, he said, adding that all of these feeds have been incorporated into the NPOP.

Simplification of export procedures

“Several other categories such as fungi, algae, aquatic plants and greenhouse crops have also been included in the NPOP,” said the president of Apeda.

Recently, the processed form of fiber has also been included in the certification system with organic cosmetics and personal care products. Certification will be done on a voluntary basis.

But the problem is that setting up a control system takes time in a certification system. However, the certification bodies that will authorize their new product categories have gained accreditation, which has helped export organic dairy products to a few destinations, Angamuthu said.

Given the mandatory certification requirement for internal trade in organic products, farmers and those who work with them have been made aware of compliance requirements, while subsequently addressing export needs.

Apeda has also undertaken efforts to facilitate the process of exporting organic products by signing agreements with the main importing countries. The EU and Switzerland have approved the NPOP as being equivalent to EU and Swiss standards, thus helping the export of unprocessed plant products without any further certification, Angamuthu said.

Based on EU approval, Indian organic products are also allowed in Britain, after it leaves the union.

Empower States

As part of its efforts to reduce the costs of certifying organic products, Apeda has allowed state government organizations to function as certification bodies. This is based on their competence and the established system for inspection and certification according to the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

“Of the 32 certification bodies accredited under the NPOP, 12 are state government organizations that are eligible to operate anywhere in the country,” added the president of Apeda.

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