Agri Business

‘Stop APEDA from accrediting agencies certifying organic products export’

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on November 10, 2021

4 trade firms ask EU to delist India from list of nations recognised for organic item exports

Four European Union (EU) organisations that deal with organic products have asked the EU Committee on Organic Production to stop the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) from giving accreditation to agencies certifying organic products exports from India to the Union.

They have also asked the EU to delist India from the list of countries recognised for organic product exports to the EU and directly supervise the shipments from the subcontinent.

The organisations, in a letter to the Committee Chair Elena Panichi, pointed towards the steps taken by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which had directly taken over the supervision of organic products exports from India to the US.

In July this year, the USDA ended a 15-year agreement with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) allowing the latter to accredit agencies certifying organic products export to the US. The USDA had said it was changing its approach to organic “oversight” in India under its National Organic Programme.

Additional audits

The four organisations asked the EU to improve the quality of organic products imported into the EU permanently and control APEDA’s functioning in this perspective.

One of the ways could be coming up with “some additional audits” and making sure that APEDA “is reacting and working as appropriately as the control system needs them to be”.

The organisations even suggested that an alternative body to APEDA, which controls and supervises organic exports, should be allowed to come up. Until then, Indian farmers should be given time for transition and EU countries be allowed to import Indian organic products without disruption.

‘Review derecognition’

The communication was sent to the EU Committee asking it to review its decision on blacklisting five certifying agencies certifying organic products exports from India to the European Commission.

The five certifying agencies - CU Inspections India , Ecocert India , Indian Organic Certification Agency (Indocert), Lacon Quality Certifications and OneCert International - have been derecognised for their failure to meet the norms for ethylene oxide (ETO) presence in their consignments, particularly sesame (til/gingelly).

APEDA followed up the derecognition of the five firms by suspending accreditation to Aditi Organic Certification for a year and banning four others - CU Inspections India , ECOCERT India, Indian Organic Certification Agency (Indocert) and OneCert International - from registering any new organic processor or exporter for organic products certification.

All the five came under APEDA lens after some shipments cleared by them failed to meet the norms for ETO presence. APEDA officials did not comment on the four organisations' letters until this report was published.

The EU organisations said in view of the committee’s blacklisting, “hundred thousands of Indian organic farmers will find difficulty to export their organic products to EU and also the interests of companies selling and customers buying their products in Europe are harmed”.

The organisations – Organic Processing and Trade Association (OPTA), Europe, SYNABIO, BioNederland and Association for Organic Food producers – said ETO was a post-harvest related issue and the farmers were not the cause but victims of contamination.

Charge against authority

The five derecognised agencies certified close to 80 per cent of organic products imported to Europe from India, which is the sixth most important country for imports into the EU. “This means that many operators in the EU that depend on ingredients from India will be affected quite severely,” the organisations said.

They told Panichi that to meet the interest of organic companies and consumers in Europe, besides the affected organic farmers, the committee should re-evaluate the best way to improve the quality of the controls on ETO in India.

The EU should at least establish a proper transition time and regime if the Commission is convinced it has taken the right measure, while allowing organic farmers in India to continue marketing their products, the organisations said.

Appreciating the committee taking the responsibility for the integrity of organic products, they said the control system in India faced difficulties. The problems were not only caused by the five blacklisted firms but APEDA as well, they charged.

“Information was withheld or forwarded very late to the control bodies and also the information given by the control bodies to APEDA was forwarded very late to the Commission by APEDA,” the four organisations alleged.

Trade analysts saw the move by the four organisations as trying to dictate terms on behalf of the certifying agencies and intervening with India’s sovereign rights.

Published on November 10, 2021

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