Sustainable and Organic Market Analysis & News

Certified Organic Products

Ekobai's guide to organic products considers the market value and benefits of organic certification and presents the latest figures from IFOAM, the Organic Trade Association and other major organic organisations. It looks at growth areas for certified organic produce and provides information on all major international standards such as Agriculture Biologique, AsureQuality Organic Standard, Soil Association, BioGro, Bio Suisse, Bio Siegel, INDOCERT, the USDA Organic Seal and others.

Overview


The sale of organic produce in the food and textile markets has risen year on year since it came to prominence in the 1960s, with massive growth within the last ten years in particular. While organic sales have dropped in countries like the UK as a consequence of the recent global economic downturn, the Organic Trade Association reported a rise of 17% in organic product sales in the US in 2008, totalling $24.6 billion (USD). This accounts for over half of the world’s entire sales, which is estimated at around $46 billion (IFOAM, 2007).

Apart from North America, by far the greatest consumers of organic produce are European countries such those in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany. Organic cotton is a particularly strong growth area, with sales rising 63% in the US to $3.2 billion in 2008. Recent figures from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) show that the biggest organic producers, based on hectares of land used for livestock, dairy farming and crops, are Australia, Argentina and Brazil. On a national level, the highest proportion of agricultural land under organic management is in Austria (13.4%) and Switzerland (11%). The greatest share of ‘organic surface area’ is in Oceania (37.6%), followed by Europe (24.1%) and Latin America.
 

Role of standards within the market


Certification serves to regulate and facilitate the sale of organic products. It assures product quality and prevents misrepresentation – it also helps promote organic produce.  As the market for organic food and other products grows and becomes increasingly mainstream, consumers rely on third party certification to identify products. In some countries, certification is awarded at government level and the commercial use of the descriptive term ‘organic’ is restricted legally. This is the case in the US, EU and Japan where the term may only be used by certified producers.

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program distinguishes three categories of organic: ‘100% Organic’, ‘Organic’ (contains at least 95% organic ingredients) or ‘made with organic ingredients’ (at least 70%). Only products in the first two categories are eligible to carry the USDA Organic Seal.

In Europe, the overall legislation for EU members is the EU-Eco-regulation (1992). This is used as a basis for a number of standards and implemented by certification bodies at a national level. Non-EU countries, both in Europe and globally, have widely adopted the European certification regulations for organic food in order to increase export chances to EU countries.
 

Leading standards


There are now hundreds of organic standards in use globally – most derived from the national organic guidelines of the larger markets outlined above. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is an umbrella organisation with more than 750 members in 108 countries. IFOAM offers an ‘Organic Guarantee System’ which enables organic certifiers to become "IFOAM Accredited" and for their certified operators to label products with the prestigious IFOAM Seal next to the logo of their IFOAM accredited certifier. Other similar large membership organisations are the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) and Ecocert.  

To qualify for the European Union Organic Logo at least 95% of a product's ingredients of agricultural origin must be organically produced. The use of the EU organic logo is currently voluntary, but will become mandatory as of July 1, 2010 for qualifying organic pre-packaged food. It will continue to be voluntary for imported products, however.  

In Asia, the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) is administered by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and certification to this standard can be awarded by international organizations. China’s Organic Food Development Center (OFDC) provides an IFOAM Accredited organic certification service to the National Organic Product Standard of China and OFDC Organic Certification Standard. Other major national and international standards and certifying bodies are linked on the right.

There are also a number of smaller non-organic standards which are used to signify the ‘natural’ qualities of produce and are often awarded to smaller organic farmers who cannot qualify for organic standards because of operation size issues. Examples of such certification providers are the UK’s Wholesome Food Association, and Certified Naturally Grown and Certified Vegan in the US.

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Ekobai\'s guide to organic products considers the market value and benefits of organic certification and presents the latest figures from IFOAM, the Organic Trade Association and other major organic organisations. It looks at growth areas for certified organic produce and provides information on all major international standards such as Agriculture Biologique, AsureQuality Organic Standard, Soil Association, BioGro, Bio Suisse, Bio Siegel, INDOCERT, the USDA Organic Seal and others.

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