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Organic Certification

Organic food has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people are becoming more health conscious and environmentally aware. But how do you know if the “organic” label on your food is genuine? With so much talk about organic certification, it’s important to understand what it means. In India, the process of organic certification is governed by the National Standards for Organic Products. This marks a significant step towards a sustainable future for the Indian agricultural industry, but what does it mean for consumers? Let’s take a closer look at organic certification in India and what it means for you.

I. Introduction

A. Definition of organic farming

Organic farming is a traditional method of cultivation that revolves around preserving and protecting the environment. The key idea of organic farming is to focus on the health and well-being of the soil, plants, and animals in the ecosystem. Organic farmers use natural fertilizers and natural pest control methods, thus promoting sustainable production and maintaining soil health. The end product that organic farming produces is healthy, nutritious, and free of harmful chemical residues, while also being environmentally responsible. The rising awareness of health-conscious consumers and the growing demand for organic produce have encouraged farmers to follow the organic farming methodology. Organic farming offers sustainable and profitable solutions for farmers, while also mitigating the environmental impact of conventional farming practices. In India, organic farming certification is governed by the National Programme for Organic Production, which provides guidelines for producing organic crops and maintaining organic standards. Embracing organic farming is a positive step towards a healthier and environmentally sustainable future. 

B. Growing demand for organic farm produce in India

The for organic farm produce in India has been growing exponentially in recent years. This surge in demand can be attributed to various reasons, including a shift in consumer preferences towards healthy and nutritious food, and environmental sustainability. Organic farming has seen an increase in popularity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are now looking for food that can help boost their immune system. Moreover, organic farming has many advantages over conventional farming, such as the absence of harmful chemicals and pesticides, better taste, and higher levels of antioxidants and micronutrients. According to the latest FiBL survey, India holds a unique position as one of the largest organic producers in the world. This development has led to a lucrative organic food industry, which is growing rapidly and ensures high profitability. The demand for organic farm produce is not just limited to metropolitan cities, but it has also increased in rural areas where people are aware of the benefits of consuming organic food. 

C. Certification process for organic farming in India

The certification process for organic farming in India is overseen by The National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The NPOP has established standards for organic production systems, criteria and procedures for accreditation of Certification Bodies, and regulations governing the use of the National (India Organic) Logo. The standards and procedures have been formulated in accordance with other International Standards regulating the import and export of organic products to ensure compliance. To obtain Organic Farming Certification, an individual must submit an application in the requisite format along with the prescribed fee and complete field verification. Before submission of the application, the farm must conform to the standard laid out by the NPOP for organic crop production. In addition to conforming to the standard, the applicant must adhere to specific requirements such as the preparation and annual update of an organic production plan, permitting on-site inspections, and maintaining records for review and compliance. Payment of prescribed fees is also required.

II. National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)

A. Standards for organic production systems

Stand for organic production systems in India are strictly defined and enforced to ensure that organic farming practices are followed. India’s National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) sets the standard for organic farming. To receive organic certification, farmers must adhere to NPOP standards, which prohibit the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and require sustainable soil management practices. The NPOP ensures that the production process is environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and ethically sound. Products that meet these standards can be labelled with the India Organic logo. In addition to NPOP, the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for India is a farmer group-centered certification system that provides affordable and accessible certification without the need for third-party certification agencies. PGS-India is a quality assurance initiative that emphasizes the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers. Both organic certification systems are independent of each other, and products certified under one system cannot be processed or labeled under another system. Overall, the standards for organic production systems in India uphold the principles of sustainable farming practices. 

B. Criteria and procedure for accreditation of Certification Bodies

The Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) plays a pivotal role in the certification process for organic farming in India. They have established strict criteria and procedures for the accreditation of Certification Bodies that seek to provide certification services under this program. These Certification Bodies are required to operate in compliance with the standards and procedures formulated by the NPOP, and must maintain records for review and compliance. Certification Bodies must also adhere to the guidelines laid out by the NPOP for the use of the India Organic logo which serves as an indicator of adherence to organic standards. To earn this certification, farmers must submit an application in the requisite format and agree to field verification of their farm’s conformity to the NPOP’s standards. They must also prepare an organic production plan and keep it updated annually, permit on-site inspections, and pay prescribed fees. Compliance with these standards is essential for anyone who wants a slice of the rapidly growing demand for organic farm produce in India. 

C. Use of India Organic logo

The Organic certification mark is a badge of authenticity for organic products manufactured in India. The criteria for this certification ensure that the product or raw materials used in it were grown without the use of chemicals or induced hormones. Customers can identify authentic organic food by looking for the Jaivik Bharat logo. However, getting certified is not an easy process. Organizations like Aditi Organics have raised awareness around the importance of certification to ensure that the entire value chain system from farmer to consumer follows organic practices. The certification process is time-consuming, expensive, and takes up to three years, but it helps consumers distinguish between genuine organic products and fake ones. Small original producers, however, cannot use the Jaivik Bharat logo on their products. Participatory Guarantee System (PGS-India) and group certification are other modes of authenticating organic food, and they can be significantly cheaper than the third-party organic certification under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). 

D. Fertilizers and soil conditioning methods allowed under organic farming

Organic farming is all about using natural methods of cultivation, which in turn help produce healthier crops, soil, and environment. One of the essential aspects of organic farming is the use of organic fertilizers and soil conditioning methods. In organic farming, the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals is strictly prohibited. Instead, organic farmers use natural methods such as composting, crop rotation, and cover cropping to maintain and improve soil health. These methods enhance soil fertility, increase soil microbial activity, and promote better plant growth. Additionally, natural fertilizers like manure and bone meal are used to provide the necessary nutrients for plant growth. Organic farming practices are not only beneficial to the environment and human health but also result in high-quality crops that are free of harmful chemicals. By using natural fertilizers and conditioning methods, organic farming provides a sustainable approach to agriculture while also protecting the planet’s resources. 

III. Procedure for Obtaining Organic Farming Certification

A. Submission of application in requisite format

To obtain organic farming certification in India, one must submit an application in the requisite format along with the necessary fees. Before submitting the application, the farmer or applicant must ensure that their farm conforms to the standards laid out by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) for organic crop production. Once the requirements for organic farming are satisfied, the applicant can prepare and submit an application that includes an organic production or handling system plan, information required in the application such as names and addresses of the applicant, and the prescribed registration fee. After an initial field inspection to verify compliance with the required standards, the accreditation authority will make a decision on the acceptance or rejection of the application. The applicant must also permit on-site inspections and maintain records applicable to the organic operation for not less than five years, and notify authorities of any changes in certified operations that may affect organic integrity. It’s important for anyone interested in obtaining organic farming certification to follow these procedures carefully. 

B. Field verification of farm conformity to NPOP standards

Once the application for organic farming certification is submitted along with the necessary fees, the next crucial step is to verify the conformity of the farm to the NPOP standards. Field verification is an important step to ensure that the farm practices organic farming methods and adheres to the norms specified by NPOP. During field verification, the certification body inspects the farm to verify the conformity of the production unit to NPOP norms on organic crop production. This process includes verifying the methods used for the preparation, processing, and packaging of the crops, checking the records and documents, and inspecting the farm for non-certified production and handling areas. The on-site inspection is conducted in the presence of an authorized representative of the operator who is educated about the operation. The verification process is critical to ensure that the farm practices organic farming methods and complies with the standards of NPOP. Once the farm is found conforming to the standards, the operator is sanctioned with the organic farm certification. 

C. Organic production plan preparation and annual updates

Organic production plan preparation and annual updates are an essential part of the organic certification process in India. In order to achieve and maintain certification, farmers are required to submit an organic production plan outlining their strategies for adhering to the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) standards. These standards include using only approved fertilizers and soil conditioning methods, as well as avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farmers must also permit on-site inspections from certification bodies in order to ensure continued compliance with the NPOP standards. Additionally, farmers are required to maintain detailed records for review and compliance, and pay the prescribed fees for certification. Regular annual updates must also be submitted to show any changes or progress in the organic production plan. By following these guidelines, farmers can ensure that their products meet the standards for organic certification, and contribute to the growing demand for organic farm produce in India and around the world. 

D. Permitting on-site inspections

One crucial step in the process of obtaining organic certification in India is allowing on-site inspections. This means that a representative from the certification body will visit the farm to physically inspect and verify that the farm conforms to the National Program of Organic Production (NPOP) standards. During the inspection, the representative will collect samples, review records, interview personnel, and conduct a physical examination of the site before finally preparing a report of findings. If certification is granted, the farm will receive a certificate of compliance. However, if certification is not granted, the report of findings will come with an explanation and a declaration of status. It may require additional information or corrective actions before certification can be granted. It is vital to note that annual on-site inspections are necessary to maintain certification. Permitting on-site inspections helps to guarantee that the farm is adhering to organic farming practices and the set standards for organic production systems. This step ensures that only products that meet organic standards are certified and sold to customers. 

E. Maintenance of records for review and compliance

Maintaining records is crucial for organic farms to meet compliance standards and ensure authenticity. These records include information about the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs, as well as harvesting and sales data. Organic certification bodies in India require both electronic and paper records of all activities related to organic farming practices. These records are kept up to date, and organic farmers must also maintain records of any non-organic inputs used. These records are reviewed regularly by certification bodies, and any non-compliance can result in loss of certification. The maintenance of records is necessary for transparency and accountability in the organic farming sector. It ensures that organic produce is genuine and free from any chemical contamination. By adhering to thorough record-keeping procedures, organic farmers can take pride in their products while providing consumers with confidence that they are receiving genuine organic produce. 

F. Payment of prescribed fees

Once you’ve gone through all the steps in the certification process for organic farming in India, you’ll need to ensure that you pay the prescribed fees to maintain your certification. The fees are determined by the size of your operation and are broken down into various components, including the onetime application fee, hourly inspection fees, and annual operation fees, which are based on the organic production value of your operation. The good news is that many small farms and food processors can be certified for as little as $150 in the first year, and fees for mid- and large-size operations are competitive. Payment plans are available, and additional services are offered for those looking to expand their certification. If you’re interested in learning more about the fees associated with organic certification in India, contact a certified organic certifying agent for a detailed quote.

IV. Documents Required for Organic Certification in India

1. Organic Farming Plan.
2. Soil testing report.
3. Water quality analysis report.
4. Proof of land ownership or lease agreement.
5. Proof of previous cultivation history.
6. List of crops to be cultivated organically.
7. Details of organic inputs and their sources.
8. Records of farm operations and inputs.
9. Harvest and yield records.
10. Records of storage and transportation of organic produce.

V. Advantages of Organic Certification in India

1. Organic produce is safe for human consumption.
2. Organic farming is environmentally sustainable.
3. Organic farmers receive premium prices for their produce.
4. Organic farming promotes soil health and fertility.
5. Organic farming conserves biodiversity.
6. Organic agriculture supports socio-economic development.
7. Organic farming promotes access to nutritionally rich food.

VI. Disadvantages of Organic Certification in India

1. Organic certification can be expensive.
2. The certification process can be complicated and time-consuming.
3. The lack of awareness among farmers and consumers about the benefits of organic farming.
4. The lack of adequate infrastructure for organic farming.
5. The negative perception about the quality and appearance of organic produce.
6. The difficulty in sourcing organic inputs.
7. The lack of government support for organic farming.

VII. Process of Organic Certification in India

1. An application is submitted to the certification agency.
2. An inspection is conducted by the certification agency.
3. The inspection report is evaluated by the certification agency.
4. The certification agency issues an organic certificate if the farm meets the criteria.
5. The farmer must maintain records on inputs used, operations performed, and output produced.
6. The organic certification must be renewed annually.

VIII. Types of Organic Certification in India

1. Individual Certification – For small-scale farmers.
2. Group Certification – For farmers who belong to a collective or cooperative.
3. Third-Party Certification – For farmers who want to sell their produce in international markets.
4. Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Certification – For farmers who want to sell their produce in local markets.

IX. Frequently Asked Questions about Organic Certification in India

1. Why is organic farming important?
Ans: Organic farming is important because it is more environmentally sustainable, promotes soil fertility, and produces safe food.

2. How can I get organic certification for my farm?
Ans: You can get organic certification by applying to a certification agency and meeting the criteria set out by the agency.

3. How long does the organic certification process take?
Ans: The organic certification process can take up to six months.

4. What is the cost of organic certification in India?
Ans: The cost of organic certification varies depending on the certification agency and the area of cultivation.

5. What are the benefits of organic certification?
Ans: The benefits of organic certification include access to premium prices, improved soil health, and environmental sustainability.