Peruvian efforts to have the country added to an EU list of preferred organic food suppliers look likely to be realised. According to Jorge Jave, organic products director of Peru’s National Agricultural Health Service (SENASA), the process of accreditation is reaching its final stage with the new arrangement expected to be in place in 2012. The addition of Peru to the list will make it easier and cheaper for Peruvian producers to export organic bananas, coffee and cocoa to the EU market.
Mr Jave noted that ‘the inclusion requirements for the list were similar to the demands placed on E.U. countries, which meant legislative and certificate costs would be low’. Argentina and Costa Rica are already on the list of preferred suppliers to the EU market.
In the UK, the Soil Association, an organisation that certifies over 80% of organic produce in the UK, reports a recovery in demand for organic products after 3 years of declining sales as a result of the economic downturn. Many multiple retailers ‘lost interest’ in organic products as the recession took hold. However renewed interest is now being shown, with the supermarket Waitrose leading the way. The Soil Association hopes through its promotional efforts to see a 20% expansion of organic sales in the coming years. The UK organic market was more severely hit than mainland European organic markets, which was attributed by some organic industry sources to a lack of UK government support for the sector.
In September 2011, EU farmers’ organisation Copa-Cogeca held a conference highlighting the benefits of organic farming and calling for new measures to support the organic sector under the pending CAP reform proposals, including greater support for promotional measures and research into improving organic production technologies.
Establishing regulatory standards which gain recognition as being equivalent to EU standards, by being added to lists of ‘preferred organic suppliers’, is one area where public authorities in ACP countries can assist national producers in securing cost-effective access to the EU market.
With new support programmes for EU organic producers likely under a reformed CAP (e.g. via a supplementary payment under the direct aid payment scheme to farmers who produce sustainably, for which organic farmers would automatically qualify) and growing competition from non-ACP suppliers of organic products, this kind of public sector support in ACP countries is likely to prove essential in the coming period.
Looking beyond government policy initiatives, the UK Soil Association’s analysis suggests that the nature of the relationships established along supply chains has an important bearing on the returns achieved from organic farming. Public sector support (with donor assistance) could well prove useful in helping ACP organic producers get to know better the partners in any given supply chain and their final consumers. In this context it should be noted that ‘core organic consumers’ are likely to be less affected by recessionary pressures than ‘opportunistic organic consumers’, with these consumers generally having different shopping patterns, purchasing their organic products through different types of outlets (opportunistic consumers for example are more likely to buy organic products in discount retailers, rather than higher-end retailers such as Waitrose).
There would also appear to be a case for including ACP organic producers in any EU-supported research programmes aimed at improving organic production techniques. The extension of such research programmes (and even promotional measures) to ACP producers would represent a concrete manifestation of a commitment to building a development dimension into any future EU agricultural product quality policies.