The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the nodal agency for the National Programme on Organic Production (NPOP) has suspended the accreditation of two certification agencies and withdrawn NPOP certification of an exporter for “major non-compliances”.

According to decisions made by the sub-committee of the National Accreditation Body (NAB), managed by APEDA, penalties have been imposed on six certification organisations and an exporting firm has been placed in the “high-risk category” for six months.

Sub-committee decisions

The sub-committee met on November 23 and the decisions were conveyed in an APEDA communication dated December 9, a copy of which is available with businessline.

As per the sub-committee decision, the accreditation of Reliable Organic Certification Organization (ROCO) and Baltic Testing India Pvt Ltd for one year and three months, respectively, for major non-compliances and violation of NPOP. A fine of ₹5 lakh each has been imposed on both companies. 

ROCO is a Bengaluru-based firm launched in 2018. Baltic Testing is a subsidiary of Denmark-based Baltic Control Ltd.

The NAB has also pulled up Karnataka and Rajasthan organic certification agencies. While a penalty of ₹1.5 lakh has been imposed on Karnataka State Organic Certification Agency, Rajasthan State Organic Certification Agency will have to pay ₹1 lakh for “non-compliances and lapses” in the certification process under NPOP. 

Repeat offences

A “pecuniary penalty” of ₹5 lakh has been imposed on Aditi Organic Certification Pvt Ltd and SGS India Pvt Ltd for “major non-compliances in the certification process under NPOP”, while CU Inspections India Pvt Ltd has been penalised ₹2 lakh for the same violation.

The sub-committee also decided to issue a warning letter to Ecocert India Pvt Ltd for lapses in certification process. In 2021, Aditi Organic, CU Inspections and Ecocert had been found violating the compliance orders in 2021 by APEDA. 

The NAB decided to withdraw NPOP certification of Elite Green Pvt Ltd apart from penalising it ₹5 lakh for NPOP non-compliance and violation.

While placing RPM Exim Pvt Ltd in the high-risk category, the NAB has ordered consignment-based testing of organic sugar it ships out of the country. 

‘Seek bank guarantees’

According to trade analyst S Chandrasekaran, since some of the companies such as Aditi Organic, CU Inspections and Ecocert  have been found to be repeat offenders, an improvement in the process is required to ensure the offences do not recur.

“The government should make use of technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, besides tapping data to tackle such offences. APEDA is doing things with noble intentions but unless and until authorities learn to tap the latest technology and use organic Aadhaar, its efforts may be in vain,” he said. 

The Centre should raise the penalty manifold since the current amount is meagre and cannot be a deterrent. “Also, the agencies should be asked to provide bank guarantees. Companies such as Ecocert and CU Inspections, which are Europe-based, have not been found fault by the EU because of the regulations there. We need to bring in such regulations here to ensure strict compliance,” the analyst said.