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UN helps boost market access for organic farmers in developing nations

8 October 2008Organic farmers in developing countries will have greater access to world markets, thanks to two practical tools developed by the United Nations and a partner agency to help ease trade in organic agricultural products. The new tools are the result of six years of joint efforts by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the umbrella organization for the organic sector worldwide.According to FAO, organic trade is expanding at the rate of 15-20 per cent per year, and more than 100 countries currently export certified organic products. However, the global trade in organic products is hindered by a multitude of standards, regulations and conformity assessment systems. This means that products certified as organic under one system may not be easily recognized as organic under another, causing problems and increased costs for organic producers and exporters who want to sell in different markets. Equitool is a guide to help decision-makers assess whether an organic production and processing standard applicable in one region of the world is equivalent, or equally valid, to another organic standard. “This tool facilitates trade while also safeguarding organic production according to local socio-economic and agro-ecological conditions,” FAO said in a news release.The second tool, IROCB (International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies) is a minimum set of performance requirements for organic certification bodies that will enable import of products certified under foreign control systems.Both tools were approved at the final meeting of the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalency in Organic Agriculture (ITF) – which comprises representatives of governments, intergovernmental agencies, and key stakeholders from the private sector, including certifiers and accreditors – in Geneva. “The organic market is steadily expanding, new issues are emerging and organic standards and certification procedures are in constant development,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller. “Rather than losing time, money and markets in this jungle of standards and regulations, the ITF has laid the basis for harmonious cooperation for those interested in facilitating the growth of the organic sector, while maintaining the integrity of the system,” he added. The ITF advocates that organic trade should be based on international standards and the principle of equivalence, and that organic certification bodies worldwide should meet common performance requirements.There are currently two international standards for organic agriculture: the FAO/World Health Organization (WHO) Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Food and the IFOAM Basic Standards. read more