Written by Ong Kung Wai
Sunday, 18 September 2011 19:25
Initial meeting on equivalence between the Philippines and Indonesia
Notwithstanding postponements and the possibility that Philippine delegates were not going to get their travel papers signed in time, the initial meeting on equivalence of their respective organic systems between Philippines and Indonesia held last July reportedly went well and met all key objectives.
The meeting was first mooted at the Global Organic Market Access (GOMA) Project meeting in Shanghai, in May 2010. Indonesian and Philippine delegates then agreed to conduct an equivalence determination exercise of their respective standards according to the EquiTool. The GOMA project is a joint collaboration between FAO, UNCTAD and IFOAM, established to promote and support the use of equivalence tools developed by the International Task Force for Harmonisation and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF). The ITF process, which took place between 2003 and 2009, also led by FAO, UNCTAD and IFOAM, produced two tools, i.e. the EquiTool, a guide for assessing equivalence of organic standards and technical regulations, and the international requirements for organic certification bodies (IROCB).
By the time delegates met on 28 and 29 July 2011, in Bogor, Indonesia, the equivalence exercise had expanded to include their respective conformity systems with the objective of reaching a full mutual equivalence agreement between the two countries. This is the first such initiative in the Asia region. It will pave the way for other members of the Asia Working Group, including India and China, who are involved in the regional multilateral equivalence initiative currently under discussion, facilitated by GOMA. It augurs well that the Director General of the Directorate of Quality and Standardization, Ministry of Agriculture, the lead agency for the competent authority of organic agriculture in Indonesia, addressed the meeting. In his speech he stressed that Indonesia’s interest to progress in the harmonisation and equivalence initiative is not just for Indonesia, but also for the development interest of the organic sector in the whole region.
Known as the rain city of Indonesia, it did rain hard during the meeting in Bogor, but that did not wash out delegates’ effort to meet all key objectives. The Philippine delegation, led by the Bureau of Agriculture Food Product Standards (BAFPS), got on well with the host Indonesian delegation, led by the Directorate of Quality and Standardization. It helped that some delegates were familiar with each other from previous engagements in ASEAN GAP (good agriculture practice) and other government work missions.
The meeting, assisted by a GOMA steering committee member and consultant from the region, reviewed ITF/GOMA documents, particularly the EquiTool, the Common Objectives and Requirements for Organic Standards (COROS), and IROCB. Also taking into consideration the Canada-USA equivalency process, the meeting managed consensus on a set of choices regarding: scope of equivalence; equivalence assessment process; choice of equivalence tools; supervision of certification; and elements and mechanisms to implement the agreement, including an action plan with deadlines and a confidentiality agreement.
Scope of agreement:
Parties agreed to start with the product scope of crop production, wild collection (including wild harvest honey), processing and farm inputs. Other sectors, such as aquaculture and animal husbandry, that are only just emerging in both countries, were not included as trade in the products is not expected in the near future. Grower group certification will be included. A decision on whether the equivalence agreement is only limited to products certified within the respective countries or if it will also cover products certified by approved certification bodies (CB) outside their respective countries was reserved for further discussion. Likewise, a decision on to what extent the equivalence agreement will or will not include products recognised by one party vis-à-vis other equivalency agreements with other parties was postponed.
Equivalence assessment process:
Parties agreed on the adoption of the EquiTool process for the equivalence assessment of both standards and certification requirements as follows:
a) Self assessment by respective parties.
b) Review of self assessments and initial feedback by respective parties.
c) Response to initial Assessment Review by respective parties on a need basis.
d) Resolution of equivalence issues between parties.
Choice of equivalence tools:
Parties agreed to use the COROS, including the Criteria for Variations as provided by the EquiTool, as the basis of their equivalence assessment of each other’s standards. In consideration of the development of the Asian Regional Organic Standard (AROS), parties also decided to include assessment of their respective standards against the AROS as an additional exercise. This was in light of the initiative and likelihood of the AROS being adopted as the ASEAN standard for organic agriculture.
Parties agreed to use the IROCB as the basis of their equivalence assessment of each other’s certification requirements. However, as the delegates were not all fully familiar with the IROCB, parties also agreed to include a side-by-side assessment of their respective certification requirements to support the decision.
Review of supervision of certification; monitoring and enforcement activities:
Parties will exchange sets of documents relevant to the implementation and enforcement of their respective organic labelling regulations. Based on their respective document reviews, parties will discuss the need for on-site evaluations of supervision and enforcement activities before making an agreement and arrangements accordingly.
Elements and mechanisms to maintain agreement:
An initial discussion identified key elements, and suggestions to address them were developed for further discussion:
- On-going maintenance and updating of list of approved CB.
- Information exchange regarding changes and modifications to implementation, e.g. revision of standards, certification or supervision rules.
- Verification of effective supervision.
- Handling of complaints.
An exchange of Letters of Intent between the respective competent authorities is expected before the two parties proceed further. Delegates agreed to target completion of the process before the GOMA conference scheduled in conjunction with BioFach in February 2012.
Ong Kung Wai
Written by Gunnar Rundgren
Sunday, 15 May 2011 20:16
Chinese organic agriculture began in the late 1980s, driven initially by environmental concerns and later by export opportunities. The latest estimate, from 2009, was that there is 2 million hectares of certified organic farmland, while total organic production was valued at about US$ 2.4 billion in 2008. There are 27 organic certification bodies active in China. By 2005, compulsory organic standards and supervision systems were introduced for organic certification bodies operating in China. ‘The future of the organic market is promising in China given strong consumer interest. However, the lack of mutual recognition between the Chinese organic regulation and other major markets makes exports to China potentially costly for poorer countries.’ says Alexander Kasterine, Senior Market Development Adviser of the ITC.
A recent report from the International Trade Centre (a joint UNCTAD/WTO initiative based in Geneva) gives the most comprehensive overview of the Chinese organic market so far. By the late 1980s, some local governments in China began promoting what was known as ‘ecological agriculture’. Meanwhile, seeing opportunities in the growing global demand for organic foods, other government bodies began to promote organic farming. One such agency was the Nanjing Institute of Environment Science (NIES) of the State Environment Protection Administration, which became a member of IFOAM in 1989. The first certified organic product was tea certified by a Dutch organisation and exported to Europe in 1990. The main drivers of modern organic agriculture in the early period were Chinese enterprises, both state-owned and private, which were contracted by European, Japanese and American importers. The first local organic certifier was the China Organic Food Development Center (OFDC), which was established in 1994 by the NIES.
Production and market
China’s organic production is mostly based on organised systems rather than individual farmers. There are three main organic production models adopted by companies and producer associations:
- An organic processor or trader leases land from farmers and this company then manages the farm production. Farmers are paid rent and become farm workers on the company’s leased land.
- A processor or trader sets up an organic production project in cooperation with a local agent or government in a village or township. Farmers in the designated project areas are asked to convert to organic production in line with the firm’s demand, and the local government signs a long-term contract with farmers for organic production and purchase.
- Organic production associations under which the village administration or the farmers themselves organize organic producer associations. The association manages and provides technical support to producer members and buys their produce, which it then sells to processors or traders.
There were some 2,500 certified organic producers, with more than 100,000 individual farmers in 2007. Between 2 million and 3 million hectares of farmland is certified as organic, putting China among the world’s top five organic producers, in acreage terms. Statistical data on Chinese organic production, however, vary from one source to another.
In 2008, the total value of organic production reached about 16 billion Yuan (US$ 2.4 billion), with exported organic products exceeding US$ 500 million and the domestic organic market reaching US$ 1.1 billion. The remaining US$ 800 million in organic products were sold as conventional products. Organic imports were estimated at about US$ 20 million in 2009. China’s domestic market in organic products began developing in the mid-2000s and has expanded rapidly, especially in the past few years in the light of an increasing number of food scandals. Chinese consumers are very concerned about food quality, which they define less in terms of appearance and more in terms of nutritional properties and safety. Retailers, especially supermarkets and speciality shops, dominate domestic organic markets. The major sales channel is through conventional and high-end supermarkets, which control more than 80% of retail markets. Speciality shops are growing in number, but their sales are limited. There is currently market saturation in some organic products, such as rice, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat and green tea.
Standards, certification and regulation
There are three national agencies that are important for the organic system in China. The Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA), is the national administrative body overseeing all types of certification and accreditation within China. CNCA covers food safety and food quality schemes, including ‘Green Food’ (another Chinese system for environmentally friendly agriculture production), good agricultural practices (GAP), good manufacturing practices (GMP), feed production, HACCP and organic products. The national accreditation body is the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS). This body does technical conformity assessment and sets technical rules, such as the certification criteria for all certification bodies. In addition to the above, inspectors of all certification and certification training bodies must be approved and registered with the China Certification & Accreditation Association (CCAA), which was established in 2005.
The specific regulations and standards for organic certification were introduced in 2004 and took effect in 2005. The relevant items were:
- The organic standard, i.e. National Standard of the People’s Republic of China: Organic Products (GB/T 19630.1–19630.4-2005), is based on international norms with added emphasis on contamination by pollutants and prohibited materials and quality management systems, especially record keeping and traceability.
- The Regulatory Measures on Organic Product Certification Management (also known as Decree No. 67 of State General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) defines organic certification and organic products, including the scope and requirements for certification bodies and inspectors. It also sets principles for organic certification, national organic labelling, import requirements and principles for international cooperation and supervision measures.
- The Implementing Rules on Organic Certification (CNCA 2005 No.1) regulates organic certification activities. It defines organic certification objectives, scope of application, standards, certification procedures, administration after certification, certificates, marks and logos, as well as certification fees.
Under this complex system, rules and regulations are set by different agencies. For example, an organic certification body must first comply with rules set by CNCA on qualifications of certification bodies. Then the certification body must comply with technical rules set by CNAS so that it can acquire accreditation. At the same time, inspectors working for certification bodies must comply with CCAA rules and have CCAA approval. Currently, there are only 26 organic certifiers with such approval, and all are based in China.
Organic imports to China
The organic regulations of 2005 covered imports as well as domestic production. Article 36 of the Regulatory Measures on Organic Product Certification Management requires imported organic products to be certified under Chinese organic standards. All operational stages, such as farming, handling, processing and packing, must comply with Chinese organic standards, even if such operations have already been certified as organic for other systems. Imported organic products must also be inspected by organic inspectors registered with CCAA who have had CCAA-organised training, testing and interviews. So far, no foreign inspectors have been approved, a situation that obviously leads to high costs and other problems for market access.
In September 2010, CNCA issued a draft report on ‘Rules on Importing of Organic Products from Other Countries and Regions’. The document contained proposals that would allow mutual recognition between CNCA and regulatory bodies in exporting countries so that organic products certified outside China could be accepted into the country. At the time of the report’s preparation, the draft document was under internal consultation. The rules were expected to be finalised and approved in late 2010 or early 2011. Currently, CNCA is in the process of negotiating with several governments for bilateral and multilateral agreements regarding organic regulatory recognition. Participating governments include the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and Thailand. The negotiations are not expected to be concluded soon.
Source: Organic Food Products in China, Market Overview, ITC 2011, PDF available for download at: www.intracen.org
Written by Nuria Alonso Villalon
Sunday, 15 May 2011 20:06
Over the last three years Goji berries have become very popular in international markets. They have gone from being almost unknown a few years ago to now widely being stocked in shops throughout the world. This growth has been accompanied by publicity that talks of their unbeatable health properties. Organic goji has also seen demand rocket, in spite of being sold at much higher prices than conventional goji. Both conventional and organic goji are grown mainly in China.
However, the high value of organic goji berries has created a problem. Bernhard Schulz, from CERES, one of the certification bodies that certifies goji berries in China explains: ‘The great demand and the big difference between the price of organic and conventional goji berries has made many of the operators in China, both at production level and processors/exporters, inside and outside China, to be tempted to apply prohibited inputs or to increase their production by bringing non-organic berries. The chemical analyses that we usually take on this produce have demonstrated that almost all our operators in China had committed some kind of serious non conformities, infringements or even fraud.’
Due to these problems, CERES has decided to stop certifying goji in China for the time being. Their decision was announced on their website, accompanied with a detailed explanation on what occurred to make them take this decision. In a policy paper titled ‘Discontinuing Organic Berry Certification in China’, CERES states that they have been involved in the certification of goji projects in China since 2006, but in recent years all kind of problems, including fraud, have occurred. In an attempt to reduce these problems, in 2008 CERES initiated particular control measures, such as shortening inspection periods, increasing the number of unannounced inspections, and more pesticides analyses.
However, in spite of the special measures, CERES explains that problems continued and in 2010 even became worse. Therefore, the disproportional costs, the effects on their reputation and the impossibility to really exert control over the operators under the current circumstances, CERES decided to discontinue organic goji berry certification in 2011.
Berhard Schulz hopes that organic goji berries go out of fashion, which would paradoxically permit a sustainable growth of this product’s market. CERES will reconsider their decision in the future when they can see that the market offers less incentive to operators to conduct fraud.
Berhard Schulz, CERES Management Team
CERES website: ‘Our Organic Policies: Discontinuing Organic Berry Certification in China’ www.ceres-cert.com
Written by Gunnar Rundgren
Thursday, 16 September 2010 12:11
Earlier this year in May, 36 participants from 12 East, South-East and South Asian countries attended a workshop on harmonisation and equivalence for organic agriculture in Asia, The participating countries were Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. At the workshop the delegates declared their intent to move forward on tangible measures that will reduce and avoid barriers to trade of organic products within their region. One of those measures is the development of an Asian Organic Standard.
Organic is growing
The workshop was organised by the GOMA project, a joint FAO, IFOAM and UNCTAD initiative (see www.goma-organic.org). Held on 27-29 May at the site of the BioFach China 2010 trade fair, the workshop delegates represented countries that constitute more than one-third of the world’s population. In addition, this region has the most rapidly developing organic sector, said Andre Leu, IFOAM representative on the Steering Committee of the GOMA project. He advised the organic sector in the region not to repeat past mistakes of other regions, but rather to develop open markets from the start.
Discussions in the workshop covered several important issues, which included the need for national registration of inspectors, restricting the practice of sub-contracting inspectors, and the importance of collaboration between certification bodies in the region. The South Korean, as well as the Chinese, requirements for national registration of inspectors (organic and other sectors) were mentioned. However, as the South Koreans are currently revising their system, there was nothing definite to base any discussions on. It was discussed how having different national competent authorities, requiring separate accreditations and registration of inspectors can cause problems for foreign certification bodies as well as restrict collaboration between certification bodies.
Several speakers from the trade confirmed that imports play a big role in the development of the local markets. For example, of the 53 organic brands on sale in the Philippines in 2007, 41 were imported and 12 were domestic, according to Girlie Sarmiento, Director of the Organic Trade Association. Selina Gan from Country Farm Organic, Malaysia said they import from 21 countries. Some of the products marketed contain a mix of ingredients that come from different certifications, and this is problematic if just one of the certification fails. Other obstacles for market development are the high price differential for organic produce, which can be up to 500%, and logistical and scale related problems.
Ong Kung Wai, member of the GOMA Steering Committee, gave a presentation on the Scoping Study for Equivalence and Harmonisation of Organic Standards and Technical Regulations in the Asia Region. The study highlighted the importance of imports: ‘Domestic market growth is now also dependent on import of ingredients and finished products not available locally.’ In Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam the organic market is dominated by imports (see table below). Imports compliment local products by helping them to meet demand and this means that a wider range of products can be sold. Local processors are stimulated from seeing products imported that they could produce themselves. Limited quantities can be imported, which means that many processed products can be tested in the market without local manufacturers having to take the risky step of developing a new product line.
Regulation can help or raise barriers
Even where imports create competition for local producers, by and large, they will mostly stimulate the sector. However, governments can stifle this development as explained by the Scoping Study: ‘Although market size is still relatively small, the high value and profile associated with organic is precipitating civil society (consumer) calls and governments’ interest to regulate the sector. Ironically, government regulations initiated to assist development of the sector may become an inhibiting factor. Without a recognition framework in place, intra trade and regional sector development is in danger of being constrained as import rules add more complication, bureaucracy and costs to trade in organic but not for conventional agriculture products.’
Last year South Korea, which was not present at the workshop, launched a regulation containing strict requirements for imports. These have not come into force, and currently the country has separate authorities and accreditation for primary and processed products. There was no delegate at the workshop as the country is in the midst of revamping its system and was not sure who should represent it. The report by Ong Kung Wai did not include details of the South Korean regulatory requirements for this reason.
The report outlines the options for harmonisation and equivalency in the region. It states, ‘With a diverse mix of scenarios, from highly developed regulatory frameworks to non-regulated developing markets, including government certification programmes, as well as international and local certification bodies operating to national requirements and/or private standards, no mechanism is applicable on its own to facilitate recognition of imports throughout the region and beyond.’ The report continues by proposing a combination of two mechanisms:
Systems Recognition mechanisms for regulated markets including those with national standards and accreditation systems in place. This could work between Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines as well as India, Thailand and Indonesia. It could be a multi-party negotiation process based on the ITF tools for reciprocal equivalence or unilateral acceptance by each authority of the others’ system.
Recognition of certification mechanisms for products from non-regulated markets. This could be based on authorities in regulated markets mandating certification bodies under their supervision the right to recognise equivalent certification conducted by certification bodies in non-regulated markets, or the use of either prior inspection reports for re-certification, or contracted inspections through government and local private certification bodies. The recognition of government or private inspection/certification process could cover Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and products from elsewhere where a qualified credible government or private certification body operates.
Hong Kong, despite being a part of China, has not implemented any mandatory certification for organic production, but relies on voluntary schemes. False organic labelling is still dealt with by the Customs and Excise Tax Department. The Indian regulation for organic products is for exports only, but a regulation for the domestic market that would include imports is under way.
In Thailand, under existing proof of labelling rules, importers must demonstrate that the organic products they import are compliant with the Thai national organic standards in order to use the Thai word for ‘organic’ in the required Thai text label. This has to be conducted on a batch-to-batch basis. However, as there is no clear way to demonstrate such compliance, importers normally choose not to apply to use the Thai term for ‘organic’ on the Thai label. Products are, nevertheless, sold as organic based on the original foreign labels, which includes the term ‘Organic’ in English.
Japan has granted equivalence to USA and it can also accredit certification bodies according to the US NOP. It also recently concluded mutual recognition with the EU. India is considered equivalent by the EU and may accredit to the NOP. Taiwan has approved Canada, USA and New Zealand for imports. So far, China and South Korea have not recognised any other countries. China and Thailand have initiated equivalence talks and India has contacted South Korea. Indonesia and the Philippines have expressed their interest to initiating mutual recognition at the meeting.
The report outlines eight different models/levels for facilitation of international acceptance:
- Equivalence agreements between governments.
- Unilateral acceptance of products from equally credible systems.
- Foreign government as agents.
- Acceptance of International Accreditation.
- Direct approval/accreditation of foreign certification bodies.
- Recognition between accreditation bodies.
- Mandate authority to certification body.
- Recognition/collaboration agreements between certification bodies
Specific examples of each of these models can be found in the report. Their respective application is schematically shown in the box below.
The workshop participants agreed on establishing a regional working group of interested parties to progress harmonisation and equivalency. The working group will develop a regional organic standard through a public-private consultative process. This Asian Organic Standard will be based on core international norms and regional minimum requirements. The standard could be adopted by several or all of the countries as a harmonised standard and/or serve as the basis for equivalence of organic standards within the region. The working group will also identify opportunities to initiate multi-lateral and/or bilateral equivalence discussions in the region using the two ITF Tools: the Guide for Assessing Equivalence of Organic Standards and Technical Regulations (EquiTool) and the International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies (IROCB). An initial meeting of the working group will be held in Mumbai at BioFach India/India Organic in December 2010.
Source: Scoping Study for Equivalence and Harmonisation of Organic Standards and Technical Regulations in the Asia Region
More information as well as the study can be found at the GOMA website
Written by Vitoon Panyakul, Isidor B Yu
Tuesday, 15 September 2009 01:00
How the new regulations have caused unnecessary complexity
Though organic agriculture has been a developmental goal of South Korean non-governmental and civil organisations for many years, its popularity gathered momentum when official intervention and support was initiated in mid-to-late 1990s. South Korean authorities see organic agriculture as a part of sustainable or environmentally friendly agricultural systems, which includes at least three types of farming, i.e. organic farming, no-pesticide (chemical-free) farming and low-pesticide (or low-chemical) farming.
Support was first provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, who established the ‘Sustainable Agriculture Department’ as part of the Ministry in December 1994. In December 1997 the ‘Environmental Friendly Agriculture Promotion Act - EFAPA’ (code 5442) was adopted. This law was meant to promote all three types of sustainable farming systems through various policy measures. For instance, the law instructs the national government and local municipalities to establish policies supporting environmental agriculture through education and training, technological promotion, research, market monitoring, use of marks, subsidies and preferential public procurements. It also required the Ministry to establish an Environmental Agriculture Development Committee and develop a 5-year plan of action as well as provide the resources required to implement it. In addition, Article 22 of the law required the establishment of domestic standards for sustainable agriculture, including those for organic farming.
Following the EFAPA law, the Ministry of Agriculture (the name changed in August 1996) issued regulations and standards on environmental agriculture, including organic agriculture. It also assigned the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS) to be responsible for controlling the labelling of fresh agricultural produce and grains. In the initial period, NAQS was the only body allowed to offer organic certification to local producers. But in 2001, the law was revised to allow private certifiers offer organic certification, while NAQS became the competent authority to accredit private certifiers. In practice, however, NAQS has retained its organic certification service as well. The first organic certifier to receive approval from NAQS was the Heuksalim Soil Research Institute (HSRI).
The NAQS’s registration requirements for private certifiers are quite simple. Private certifiers must have a minimum of five inspectors and at least two of them must be full-time staff. The certifier must have separation between the inspection and certification works. It also needs to have a ‘business plan’ that includes internal policies and rules of procedures for its operation. NAQS requires a visit to each branch office of the private certifier applying for approval. Currently, there are 51 local certification bodies approved by the NAQS to conduct organic inspection and certification in Korea.
The regulations only cover fresh products, therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture can only enforce the organic certification and labelling of primary products. Control of processed products, has traditionally been the responsibility of the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA). The KFDA issued a temporary regulation for control of organic processed products, mainly used for imported products (KFDA Notice #2007-69). KFDA’s regulation recognises IFOAM accreditation for the importation of organic processed products.
As the EFAPA law only covers fresh agricultural produce, all processed foods, either produced locally or imported, are not allowed to use the official organic logo. However, some types of processing, such as the handling of whole milk, is considered simple processing and is covered under EFAPA.
As demand for organic foods is rapidly growing in Korea, the need for controlling organic processed products is becoming more apparent. In November 2007, the South Korean parliament passed a new law called ‘Food Industry Promotion Act - FIPA’, which had its main aim to ‘promote the sound development and competitiveness of the food industry through the strengthening of the synergy between the food industry and agriculture so as to supply diverse and high-quality foods steadily with a view to contributing to the improvement of quality of life of the public and the development of the national economy’. The FIPA authorises the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF) (the name was changed again in February 2008) to accredit and control certification bodies that provide inspection and certification services for ‘fine foods’. The term ‘fine food’ was defined to include organic processed food products (FIPA Article 23 ‘certification of organically processed foods’). It should be noted, however, that accreditation of organic processed food is a separate accreditation on top of the NAQS’s accreditation. Also, the MIFAFF conducts the accreditation itself and does not delegate to another department, as in the case of accreditation for certification bodies that certify fresh produce.
The MIFAFF has also developed several regulations (e.g. #2008-48 on 1 August 2008 and #2008-116 on 19 December 2008 and #2008-120 on 19 December 2008) that specify the requirements for manufacturing organic processed foods using imported ingredients and the importation of organic products, as well as registration and accreditation of certification bodies.
Some of the key requirements are:
- All organic raw materials shall comply with the Korean organic standards as specified in the Annex 3 of Article 9 of the Enforcement Regulations of the EFAPA (Article 3 of MIFAFF Notice #2008-120).
- The label must include ‘Organic (product name)’, the name of the certifying agency, and the certification number on the certified product (Article 6 of MIFAFF Notice #2008-120).
- Labelling in a foreign language with the potential of misleading consumers to believe that a product is an organic processed food such as ‘organic’, ‘bio’, ‘eco’, etc. in English or other languages is prohibited (Article 6 of MIFAFF Notice #2008-120).
- Certifiers must have at least three inspectors (Article 31 of FIPA Enforcement Decree) who must be qualified as specified by the MIFAFF Ordinance (Article 32). In addition, the inspectors must be trained at MIFAFF, an authorised education institute. Currently, two bodies are authorised to provide inspector training, i.e. the Korean Food Research Institute (KFRI) and the International Organic Inspector Association (IOIA).
- Certifiers need to report to the MIFAFF quarterly (Article 33 of FIPA Enforcement Decree).
- Certifiers must immediately report to the MIFAFF Minister when a person who received fine food certification has it revoked (Article 35 of FIPA Enforcement Decree).
- Inspection and certification expenses and fees have to be approved by the MIFAFF (Article 27 FIPA Enforcement Regulations).
- Accreditation by MIFAFF includes a document review and an on-site visit of the organic certifier (Article 8 of Guidelines for Designating and Operating ‘Fine Food’ Certification Agencies).
The law became effective in June 2008 but organic operators have until 1 January 2010 to implement the law.
Currently, according to a TOS source, four local certification bodies have been approved by the MIFAFF to do organic processed food certification. These are Doalnara Certified Organic Korea (DCOK), Control Union, Korean Food Research Institute (KFRI) and Global Organic Agriculturist Association (GOAA).
With the enforcement period approaching, the MIFAFF is under pressure from local organic traders and certifiers to revise its complicated rules and regulations in order not to disrupt the organic trade. The key barriers of the current legal system include:
• The double accreditations for fresh and processed products.
• The requirement to visit all branch offices of certifiers applying for fresh produce accreditation. This is particularly difficult when foreign certifiers have multiple offices in different countries.
• The requirement to have all ingredients certified according to South Korean organic standards.This is difficult to implement in the case of imported processed foods with multiple ingredients.
• The requirement to inspect all farms individually by certifier (grower group certification is not recognised) as many of the imported organic products, e.g. coffee, are produced by small-scale producers in developing countries whose certification is done through grower group.
Official organic logo for South Korea
Testing required by the Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Promotion Act (EFAPA)
An issue of concern for the South Korean organic sector is the cost of the comprehensive testing that must be undertaken to fulfil EFAPA requirements.
EFAPA standards do not specify that testing is required. However, it states that certain conditions concerning soil and water must be met. The only way to verify such conditions is through testing. As an example, the tests the certification body, Doalnara Certified Organic Korea, asks for are:
- Pesticide residues. At present, farm produce is tested for 102 chemicals. If any of these chemical substances is detected, it must be lower than 10% of the allowed amount as set by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) in ONLY certain cases, such as drift or contamination from neighbouring irrigated fields. Each allowable level is different per crop.
- Soil analysis. Soil analysis usually checks pH, sodium, potassium, etc. and is locally government-funded (free).
- Soil heavy metal testing. Testing is done for eight metals: Cd, Cu, Pb, Cr6+, As, Hg, Ni. Zn.
- Water quality testing. Water quality must meet standards for agricultural use.
Vitoon Panyakul, Isidor B Yu
Vitoon works with Green Net in Thailand.
Isidor B Yu is the chair of the Korean Organic Inspectors Association. With thanks to Raymond Yang (DCOK IFOAM Program Coordinator) and Jan Schipper (Manager of Control Union Korea office) for the additional information provided.