The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) terminated its agreement with the Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (Apeda) which allowed the latter to accredit certification agencies for exports of products. organic to the United States.

In a statement, the USDA said it was changing its approach to biological “surveillance” in India and ending its agreement with Apeda which had been in effect since 2006.

Revised approach

USDA said its Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) decided that a more active surveillance presence in India was needed to “directly protect organic integrity.” The United States’ National Organic Program (NOP) has proposed an 18-month transition period for certified organic operations in India to become USDA certified, he said.

Starting July 11, organic exporters from India to the United States will need to apply for certification from a USDA-accredited organic certifier.

From July 12 next year, it will be mandatory for Indian exporters to have USDA organic certification from a certification body accredited by it.

When contacted, a USDA spokesperson said Activity area that, under the 2006 agreement, the USDA “did not have direct enforcement authority over many of the organic certification bodies and operations in India that export products to the United States”. The “revised” approach would allow certifiers accredited by Apeda to apply to the NOP for direct accreditation to USDA organic standards. “It allows organic farms and businesses in India to apply for direct certification through a USDA accredited certification body,” she said.

When contacted, an Apeda official asked Activity area to send any request by e-mail. No response was received until the tabling of this report. An organic exporter from the South said Apeda could try to rectify the situation because it might not want an outside body to overstep its authority.

Apeda was asked if any efforts had been made to extend the deal and if there was a difference of opinion between her and the USDA. The USDA spokesperson also did not respond to this request.

Costs can increase

According to Pankaj Sharma, an exporter of organic products, changing the certification method would increase the cost for all stakeholders, starting with farmers.

“However, those who do a ‘good’ job will have no problem,” he said, adding that this could however increase the red tape for exporters.

According to Sharma, there are different stages in the certification of organic products, from farm to processing to export.

“If many farmers or exporters apply for certification as a group, the cost goes down,” Sharma said.

According to Mukesh Gupta, executive director of the Morarka Foundation, the USDA ended its pact with Apeda for several reasons.

“First, the US market is inundated with Indian products that affect US businesses. Thus, by regulating certification exports from India, could be curbed, ”he said.

According to the USDA and the Indian Department of Commerce, the United States is the largest importer of Indian organic products. During 2018-19, it imported products weighing 3.34 tons lakh (lt) in total and valued at 2,922 crore ($ 429.70 million).

In a report on the Indian organic food market, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service said India is home to 30% of the total certified organic producers in the world.

According to the Indian Ministry of Commerce, the total area under organic certification was over 3.43 million hectares, of which 1.94 million hectares was cultivable and the rest was wild harvest until March 2019.

USDA analysts expect the organic food sector in India to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% during the 2016-2021 period, from $ 386.32 million in 2015 and will reach $ 10.75 billion by 2025.

The second reason, according to Gupta of the Morarka Foundation, could be that the USDA for USDA to end the pact with Apedac may think that there is a gap in the oversight of organic certification, especially concerns quality.

Our procedures are 10 times stricter than US NOP standards, but most of them are unnecessary because everyone is concerned with the process rather than checking whether the product is produced organically or not, ”he said. he declares.

The third reason could be that no US agency is responsible for certifying Indian products shipped to Washington. “The certification activity is worth between 150 and 200 crore. Now that the deal is coming to an end, it could pave the way for the entry of US entities, ”Gupta said.

A northern organic exporter said the Indian industry “will be happy to be out of Apeda’s clutches”.

“There is a lot of hassle when it comes to the Apeda procedure and he seems to be only interested in the process and certification in breeding,” said the exporter, who did not wish to be identified.

The exporter, who had worked with a US project in India on an organic product, said the USDA didn’t even need 10% of the procedure Apeda insists on.

Exporter Sharma said Indian shippers used to work with other certification agencies such as “fair deal certification” which is unrelated to India.

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