APEDA to let farmers apply online for NOC for their organic produce
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) wants to let farmers apply online for a no objection certificate (NOC) if they want to change certification agencies for organic produce. Experts, on the other hand, say that the move doesn’t solve the main problem, which is making it easy and quick for farmers to switch from one agency to another.
Since last year, when it was found in Madhya Pradesh that fake organic produce growers’ groups were listed in the National Programme for Organic Production’s (NPOP) internal control system (ICS), the problem has not been solved . Later, APEDA stopped certifying some companies, and some other companies said they would stop certifying goods like cotton and soyabean.
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In March of this year, some farmer groups complained to APEDA that they weren’t getting a NOC from the mandator and wanted to switch to a different certification agency or start a new grower group. Mandator is the person who helps the farmer connect with the trader.
As a result, APEDA has proposed that farmers be able to fill out information like their name, address, contact number, Aadhaar number, and registration number online on a portal. This information will be verified through SMS, sources said. This will lessen the role of mandators, and sources say they won’t need a NOC to switch to a new certification body.
Not being aware
But experts say that many farmers don’t know their own ‘registration number’ for organic products because that information is kept by the mandaters. If farmers are asked to put that information in the online form, they will have to go back to the mandaters to get it. In 2016, APEDA said that farmers could go to certification agencies for help if a mandator refused to give them a NOC. However, it has been seen that exporters, mandators, and certification bodies all work together, so farmers don’t get justice.
S Chandrasekaran, a trade policy analyst, said that an organic farmer will be able to get a NOC from his or her current grower group and join a new grower group if they want to. But this is not the final answer. He also said that the NOC should have a deadline and be easy to use.
We need honesty
‘Grower groups never give a farmer’s members his identification number. Until the system becomes more clear, it will be hard for organic farmers to use their rights. For example, the language of APEDA’s software for organic farming, called TRACENET, is English. How will farmers be able to get it if it isn’t also available in Hindi and other local languages?’ asked Chandrasekaran.
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Experts say that the lack of a financial audit in NPOP is the cause of the theft of money from organic farmers and a weakness in the system that helps mandaters and traders make money off of the system. Chandrasekaran also said that individual organic farmers and co-ops can’t join the organic agriculture movement because of the high cost of certification and the ways in which NPOP is set up to protect the interests of traders in grower groups.
In 2021–22, $771.96 million was made from the export of organic products that were certified by the NPOP Standards. This amounted to 4.60 lakh tons. The United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Ecuador are the main places where exports go. Other things that can be exported that are grown organically are processed foods, oilseeds, spices, rice, and millets.