India’s National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) has given accreditation to four new certifying bodies (organisations), while removing curbs on Fair Cert Certifications allowing it to register new processors and traders.

According to source, on February 9, the National Accreditation Board (NAB) under NPOP has decided to restrict three agencies from making new registrations, while also not permitting Fair Cert to certify organic cotton.

The NAB has suspended the accreditation of two agencies, while, in a separate decision, blacklisted three organic exporters for a year for not paying the penalty imposed on them for irregularities detected in their shipments to the European Union.

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The accreditation body has severely criticised the Karnataka State Organic Certification Agency (KSOCA) and has warned that its accreditation will be suspended from May 1, 2024, if its compliance is not satisfactory, the sources said.

Welcome initiatives

On the accreditation provided to four new agencies, the sources said a few decisions taken by NAB recently are welcome initiatives.

“The NAB has decided to give accreditation to four new agencies when it has suspended the accreditation for 14 others. This is welcome since there will be more organisations involved in certifying organic products,” a source said. 

A feature of permitting the four new certification bodies is that the NAB has given them accreditation zone-wise. “Agencies located in Bangalore or Mumbai which provide organic certification for farmers in far away places pass the cost to farmers. The accreditation of new companies and restricting them to specific regions is a good move and reduces certification costs,” the source said.

The four new organisations are GSCI Pvt Ltd for the west zone, Agroland Services Pvt Ltd and Krushi Certification Pvt Ltd for the north zone and Cert India Pvt Ltd for crop production, processing and handling. 

Need for level-playing field

Even existing certification agencies should be shifted to such an arrangement to provide a level-playing field to all such organisations. “Arguments such as elite and foreign certification labels or brands bring more revenue and it is only accepted by buyers or importers, are weak in view of past performances of agencies and market trends,” the source said.

Sources also welcome the decision to curb certification bodies in certifying organic cotton. “Restraining a few agencies serving organic certification in cotton will reduce the risk and improve our credibility,” another source said. NAB has excluded cotton from the purview of organic certification by GSCI and Fair Cert.

However, sources wondered why curbs on Fair Cert were being removed when the firm was under investigation by enforcement agencies. 

The NAB decided to blacklist Orchid Exim India, Agro Food Product and KV Agro Products - all Gujarat-based- as they were among the 12 companies who were imposed penalties but they had failed to pay it. The blacklisting will continue till September or until they pay the penalty, whichever is earlier. 

KSOCA’s serious non-compliance

The accreditation body has suspended the accreditation under NPOP of Reliable Organic Certification Organisation and another agency for non-compliance in the certification programme. It warned that the accreditation will be terminated if the firms do not comply within a year.

The NAB said, in the case of KSOCA, it has decided to issue a warning letter and address the “serious non-compliance” in its certification within two months. It has asked the State organic certification agency to rework and strengthen its sanctions catalogue, which will be a deterrent on certifying agencies and operators.

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The accreditation body refused to waive a ₹1.5-lakh penalty imposed by its sub-committee for non-compliance.

Sources said Indian organic exports are likely to witness “the next watershed moment”. “So NAB and APEDA, the NPOP’s nodal agency, should prepare themselves by implementing organic Aadhar. The implementation is pending for a long time,” a third source said.