On 20 June, the European Commission began implementation of Regulation No. 508/2012, setting out detailed rules for dealing with recognition of equivalence in certification of organic products. Since 1 July 2012, ‘imports of organic products certified by the certification bodies and originating from the listed countries’ no longer require import authorisations.
The certification bodies recognised for providing the necessary certification are listed in the regulation, including locally accredited bodies and EU-based certification agencies. Product/country categories covered by the new measures are mentioned in the regulation which can be found at the link for the Official Journal of the European Union below.
For product categories/countries not mentioned in the regulation, individual import authorisations will still be needed.
Annex II of the regulation also provides a list of control bodies and control authorities recognised by the EU for the purpose of equivalence, a number of which provide certification for ACP exporters for certain categories of products. Exporters from some 49 ACP countries receive certification from at least one of these listed certification agencies for some products.
The regulation needs to be seen against the background of significant shortfalls in domestic supplies of organic products on major EU markets. According to German officials, ‘every second organic carrot, every second organic apple and even 80% of organic tomatoes have to be imported.’ This is a result of consumer demand expanding faster (at 5.4% per annum) than domestic German organic production (the area under organic production increased by 4.8%).
The regulation also needs to be seen in the context of targeted efforts in countries attaining recognition of equivalency to expand production to serve EU markets. For example, in June 2012 it was reported that major efforts are taking place in Tunisia to expand the production and export of organic products. In 2011, the area in Tunisia under organic production increased by 71%, with a focus on fruit and vegetables, grain, medicinal and aromatic plants. The Tunisian government has a target of 36% expansion in the value of organic exports by 2014.
Also on 1 July 2012, the regulation related to the new organic logo entered into force. The aim of the new logo, which to be used throughout the EU, is to create more transparency on packaged and certified organic products. The new labelling requirements do not apply to bulk fresh fruit and vegetables.
The new EU regulation facilitates access for specific organic products from specific countries and certified by named certification agencies. This can potentially both reduce the costs of certification for export to the EU and simplify the process of importing into the EU, and can give a competitive edge to countries attaining equivalency status.
The regulation covers products from 11 countries. In view of recently concluded EU FTAs and ongoing trade negotiations, analysis will be needed to identify potential increased competition for ACP exporters in country/product combinations involving Costa Rica, India and Tunisia. This analysis will need to examine current exports and planned investments by these countries in organic production for export to the EU. The potential for increased competition should not however be exaggerated: Tunisian organic exports, for example, are currently concentrated in the date sector, where the ACP has little export interest.
The greatest potential area of competition would appear to lie in Indian exports of organic bananas to the UK market, which would directly compete with a major target market for organic banana exports from the Dominican Republic. Given that India is the world’s largest banana producer, this is potentially an area of concern. Securing equivalency recognition could potentially reduce the costs of accessing the EU market for organic producers in the Dominican Republic, although this needs to be the subject of a careful cost–benefit analysis in the light of existing local certification and control capacities.