It is a step that will augment India’s agricultural and processed foods export. India will soon be bringing into force an organic products policy which will clearly outline prescribed safety standards, traceability norms, soil certification guidelines and good agricultural practices.
The policy is being modelled along the lines of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) which is currently being followed by nations like the US, Brazil, the Netherlands and France. Trade experts and officials are studying GAP to derive valuable inputs that will be used to frame the policy according to a government official privy to this matter. The policy is being framed by the Commerce Ministry and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
“The idea is to have one uniform policy for the organic products sector so that domestic consumers as well as foreign buyers gain confidence that the items that are being sold to them as organic meet certain laid down standards,” the official added.
Arpita Mukherjee from the research body ICRIER hails the policy saying that it will offer farmers guidance as to what exactly they have to do when they are organically farming a certain product. “Every organic product has its own set of pesticide and bio-fertiliser and farmers have to know exactly what inputs they are to use,” she said.
While the value of organic products for export is pegged at $72 million annually, India only exports goods worth $298 million. The top export markets for India’s organic exports are US, Europe, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and countries in South East Asia.
As of now, organic products being exported from India are certified by several certifying agencies accredited by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), India which falls under the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Agency (APEDA). On the other hand, the certification process for products sold domestically is largely voluntary. The FSSAI and Agmark however, will be taking actions to regulate certification of domestic organic products, the official added.
While certification for products is a smooth process, the scenario is different for certification of organic soil in the country. The services of foreign certifying agents are sought as domestic certification agencies are yet to be set up.
“When India is exporting organic products to the US or to the EU, it has to be first established that the norms being followed at identified organic farms match the existing norms in the buying countries,” the official said.
A clear and precise policy, experts feel will help importing countries cross check guidelines more easily. Also, the same guidelines could be put to use for imports and domestic markets rather than just exports.
Production of certified organic products in India last year was 1.35 million tonne and spans several varieties of food products like coffee, vegetables, sugarcane, oil seeds, cereals & millets, cotton, pulses, medicinal plants, dry fruits and spices.