Uncertified processors and traders are not permitted to resell Indian organic products.
According to APEDA Chairman M Angamuthu, India’s National Programme for Organic Products (NPOP) includes a unique feature that prohibits the resale of products sold to uncertified processors or dealers as organic.
‘In order to identify the handler involved at each stage of a transaction, the buyer of an organic product must likewise be certified. As various suppliers recognized by multiple certifying authorities may be involved in the supply chain, adequate arrangements have been made in the product flow of multi-ingredient products as well,’ stated the Chairman of Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the nodal authority for organic produce production, certification, and exports.
APEDA has created a web-based traceability system that provides product traceability and standard compliance during production, processing, and handling. Also Read | Organic certification agencies are no longer certifying ‘high-risk’ products.
Requirements for certification
This aids in tracking the movement of a commodity from harvest to procurement, transport, processing, and delivery. This allows for the verification of the holding duration and assures compliance at all levels. It also assures that the quantity is consistent with the input and processing methodology, according to him.
‘The NPOP certification requires that items exported from the country be manufactured and handled by certified operators. Farmers who are producers are also included. The certification scheme allows any of the certifying bodies recognized under NPOP to certify the supplier of products,’ Angamuthu explained.
As a result of many certifications being involved for a single product, APEDA developed the Web-based traceability system. Only competent certification bodies, he added, have been accredited to certify the processing and trading units in order to carry out efficient verification and validation through onsite inspections and document verifications.
A team of topic specialists evaluates the inspection and certification procedures used by these certification bodies on an annual basis. In addition to routine audits and assessments, the APEDA chairman stated that inspections to monitor compliance at the level of chosen farmers, processors, and exporters are carried out unannouncedly, in addition to verification audits.
‘All of these surveillance efforts assess conformance to NPOP and the specific needs of importing nations, and deviations recorded are taken into account for suitable disciplinary sanctions,’ he explained.
India has developed the NPOP accreditation standard in accordance with the needs of key importing countries. The worldwide conformity assessment standard has been implemented for accreditation and certification. This has given India an advantage in gaining recognition from importing countries. As a result, unprocessed plant products certified under NPOP do not require additional certification as per European Union, Swiss, and British regulations,’ Angamuthu explained.
Negotiation with Taiwan
The farmer community benefits from the privilege since NPOP compliance provides additional benefits for seamless export to different destinations. India is discussing mutual recognition with key trading countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UAE in order to facilitate bilateral commerce.
‘We recently completed negotiation with Taiwan. It is likely to boost organic trade between the two countries in the coming days,’ stated APEDA Chairman.
Organic products were exported prior to the implementation of NPOP, but commerce has since expanded as India seeks equivalency agreements with other countries. ‘With an increased demand for organic feed from livestock and poultry abroad, India has emerged as one of the leading suppliers of organic feed,’ Angamuthu explained.
The APEDA chairman stated that India has enormous potential to export organic products because it was shipping out only 25% of its entire production. He added that the issue in reaching the overseas market was due to retail brands selling as raw material commodities or ingredients.
Taking action against defaulters
In response to a question about APEDA’s disciplinary action against a few certification bodies, Angamuthu stated that surveillance activities during the Covid pandemic were discovered to have loose ends that needed to be tidied up in order to maintain the integrity of Indian organic products in overseas markets.
‘Actions have been taken against non-compliant certification bodies based on the severity of the non-compliance to protect the credibility of the certification program. Disciplinary measures have been placed on responsible supply chain actors like farmer organizations, processors, and exporters,’ he stated.
He added that APEDA is in the process of introducing multiple control mechanisms in the monitoring system to avoid intentional violations and irregularities if the discovered irregularities are confirmed to be attributable to willful violations.
The authority is also taking further steps to educate farmer-producer organizations, groups, producer firms, and self-help groups on how to meet farm and post-harvest regulations.
APEDA is also emphasizing the promotion of organic products from the North-Eastern region. As part of the International Millet Year in 2023, it is also promoting organic millet.
‘Because millets are widely consumed as a staple meal in the country, value-added millets are being promoted to create more foreign exchange,’ he explained.