How to Acquire Organic Certification for Farmers in India

Organic farming is a method of growing crops without using synthetic chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or other harmful substances. Organic farming aims to preserve the soil fertility, biodiversity, and natural cycles of the environment. Organic farming also ensures that the food we consume is healthy and safe.

Organic certification is a process of verifying that a farm follows organic farming practices and produces organic products. The certification enables the farmers to market their products as organic within India and to export unprocessed products to EU & Switzerland. The certification also assures the consumers that the products are genuine and comply with the organic standards.

In India, organic farming certification is governed by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The NPOP provides the standards, criteria, and procedures for organic production, accreditation of certification bodies, the national (India Organic) logo, and the regulations governing its use.

The following article will explain the steps involved in acquiring organic certification for farmers in India.

Step 1: Understanding the Regulations and Standards for Organic Farming in India

The first step for obtaining organic certification is to understand the regulations and standards for organic farming in India. The NPOP has laid out detailed guidelines for organic crop production, livestock production, animal feed processing, handling, and labelling of organic products. The guidelines cover various aspects such as:

  • Conversion period: The minimum period required for a farm to transition from conventional to organic farming. The conversion period varies depending on the type of crop and soil condition, but generally ranges from 2 to 3 years.
  • Soil management: The practices to maintain or enhance the soil fertility and structure, such as crop rotation, green manuring, composting, mulching, etc.
  • Fertilizers and soil conditioners: The list of permitted and prohibited substances for fertilizing and conditioning the soil, such as organic manures, biofertilizers, rock phosphate, lime, etc.
  • Pest and disease management: The methods to prevent and control pests and diseases without using synthetic pesticides or fungicides, such as biological control agents, botanical extracts, traps, etc.
  • Weed management: The techniques to suppress weeds without using herbicides, such as mechanical weeding, mulching, cover crops, etc.
  • Seeds and planting materials: The sources and quality of seeds and planting materials used for organic farming. Preference should be given to certified organic seeds and planting materials. If not available, untreated conventional seeds or planting materials can be used with prior approval from the certification body.
  • Harvesting and storage: The precautions to avoid contamination or mixing of organic products with non-organic products during harvesting and storage. Separate equipment, containers, and facilities should be used for organic products. Proper labelling and documentation should be done to identify the products as organic.
  • Processing and handling: The procedures to process and handle organic products without altering their natural characteristics or adding any artificial substances. Only approved additives and processing aids can be used with prior approval from the certification body. Proper cleaning and sanitization of equipment and facilities should be done to prevent contamination or mixing of organic products with non-organic products.

The NPOP guidelines also specify the requirements for livestock production, animal feed processing, handling, and labelling of organic products. These include:

  • Animal welfare: The principles to ensure that animals are treated humanely and with respect. Animals should have access to adequate feed, water, shelter, space, health care, and natural behaviour. Animals should not be subjected to mutilation, hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs unless necessary for health reasons.
  • Animal feed: The sources and quality of feed given to animals. Animals should be fed with certified organic feed or feed produced on the farm. If not available, conventional feed can be used with prior approval from the certification body. Feed additives and supplements should be natural or approved by the certification body.
  • Animal health: The methods to prevent and treat diseases and injuries in animals. Preference should be given to natural or homeopathic remedies. Synthetic drugs or antibiotics can be used only in emergency situations with prior approval from the certification body. Animals treated with prohibited substances should be separated from the herd and their products should not be sold as organic.
  • Animal products: The precautions to avoid contamination or mixing of animal products with non-organic products during collection, processing, storage, and transportation. Separate equipment, containers, and facilities should be used for animal products. Proper labelling and documentation should be done to identify the products as organic.

The NPOP guidelines also provide the criteria and procedure for accreditation of certification bodies, the national (India Organic) logo, and the regulations governing its use. The certification bodies are the agencies that inspect and certify the farms and products as organic according to the NPOP standards. The certification bodies should be accredited by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The national (India Organic) logo is a symbol that indicates that the product is certified as organic by an accredited certification body. The logo can be used only by the certified operators on their products, labels, and promotional materials. The logo should be accompanied by the name and code number of the certification body and the certification number of the operator.

The NPOP guidelines can be accessed from the following website: https://apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/Organic_Products.htm

Step 2: Implementing Organic Farming Practices on the Farm and Keeping Detailed Records of All Activities

The second step for obtaining organic certification is to implement organic farming practices on the farm and keep detailed records of all activities. The farmer should follow the NPOP standards for organic crop production, livestock production, animal feed processing, handling, and labelling of organic products. The farmer should also maintain a farm diary or log book that records all the information related to the farm such as:

  • Location, size, and map of the farm
  • History and current status of the farm
  • Conversion plan and period
  • Crop plan and rotation
  • Soil management practices
  • Fertilizers and soil conditioners used
  • Pest and disease management practices
  • Weed management practices
  • Seeds and planting materials used
  • Harvesting and storage practices
  • Processing and handling practices
  • Livestock management practices
  • Animal feed sources and quality
  • Animal health management practices
  • Animal products collection, processing, storage, and transportation practices
  • Inputs and outputs of the farm
  • Sales and purchases of the farm products
  • Inspection reports and certificates from the certification body

The farm diary or log book should be updated regularly and kept for at least five years. The records should be accurate, complete, and verifiable. The records should also be available for inspection by the certification body or any other authorized agency.

Step 3: Applying for Certification from a Recognized Certifying Agency

The third step for obtaining organic certification is to apply for certification from a recognized certifying agency. The farmer should choose a certification body that is accredited by APEDA under the NPOP. The list of accredited certification bodies can be found on the following website: https://apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/Organic_Certification_Bodies.htm

The farmer should contact the chosen certification body and obtain an application form for certification. The application form should be filled with all the relevant details about the farm and products. The application form should also be accompanied by a copy of the farm diary or log book, a conversion plan, a map of the farm, a declaration of compliance with the NPOP standards, and any other documents required by the certification body.

The farmer should also pay a fee to the certification body for processing the application. The fee may vary depending on the size, type, and location of the farm and products. The fee may also include charges for inspection, testing, certification, renewal, etc.

Step 4: Undergoing a Site Visit by the Certifying Agency to Verify the Farm’s Compliance with Organic Farming Standards

The fourth step for obtaining organic certification is to undergo a site visit by the certifying agency to verify the farm’s compliance with organic farming standards. The certifying agency will assign an inspector who will visit the farm and conduct a physical inspection of all aspects of organic production, processing, handling, and labelling. The inspector will also review all the records maintained by the farmer and collect samples of soil, water, inputs, outputs, etc. for testing.

The inspector will prepare a report based on his/her observations, findings, and test results. The report will indicate whether the farm meets the NPOP standards or not. The report will also highlight any non-compliances, corrective actions, or recommendations for improvement.

The inspector will share his/her report with both the farmer and the certifying agency. The farmer will have an opportunity to respond to any non-compliances or corrective actions suggested by the inspector. The farmer will also have to implement any changes or improvements required by the certifying agency within a specified time frame.

Step 5: Receiving Certification from the Certifying Agency after Successful Completion of Inspection

The fifth step for obtaining organic certification is to receive certification from the certifying agency after successful completion of inspection. The certifying agency will review the inspector’s report, the farmer’s response, and any other relevant information. The certifying agency will then decide whether to grant or deny certification to the farm and products.

If granted, the certifying agency will issue a certificate that confirms that the farm and products comply with the NPOP standards. The certificate will also contain the name and address of the farmer, the name and code number of the certification body, the certification number of the farmer, the scope and validity of the certification, and the India Organic logo.

The certificate will allow the farmer to sell his/her products as organic within India and to export unprocessed products to EU & Switzerland. The certificate will also enable the farmer to use the India Organic logo on his/her products, labels, and promotional materials.

Step 6: Renewing Certification from the Certifying Agency before Expiry

The sixth step for obtaining organic certification is to renew certification from the certifying agency before expiry. The organic certificate for any produce is valid for 3 years only. It must be renewed after expiry of 3 years.

The farmer should apply for renewal of certification at least 3 months before the expiry date of the certificate. The farmer should submit a renewal application form along with a fee and updated records to the certifying agency. The farmer should also implement any changes or improvements suggested by the certifying agency during the previous inspection.

The certifying agency will conduct a re-inspection of the farm and products to verify their continued compliance with the NPOP standards. The certifying agency will also review any complaints or non-compliances reported against the farmer during the validity period of the certificate.

The certifying agency will issue a renewed certificate if the farm and products meet the NPOP standards. The renewed certificate will have a new validity period of 3 years from the date of issue.

Conclusion

Organic farming certification in India is a voluntary process that helps farmers to produce and market organic products that are healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly. Organic farming certification in India is regulated by the NPOP under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The NPOP provides the standards, criteria, and procedures for organic production, accreditation of certification bodies, the national (India Organic) logo, and the regulations governing its use.

The steps involved in acquiring organic certification for farmers in India are:

  • Understanding the regulations and standards for organic farming in India.
  • Implementing organic farming practices on the farm and keeping detailed records of all activities.
  • Applying for certification from a recognized certifying agency.
  • Undergoing a site visit by the certifying agency to verify the farm’s compliance with organic farming standards.
  • Receiving certification from the certifying agency after successful completion of inspection.
  • Renewing certification from the certifying agency before expiry.

Organic farming certification in India can help farmers to improve their productivity, profitability, and sustainability. It can also help consumers to access high-quality organic products that are good for their health and well-being.

References

https://apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/Organic_Products.htm

https://www.ecocert.com/en-IN/certification-detail/organic-farming-india-npop

https://www.indiafilings.com/learn/organic-farming-certification-in-india/

https://kavyaorganicfarm.com/organic-farming-certification-process-in-india/

How to get Organic Certification in India

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