The organic food industry in India is a fast growing agriculture segment. Going by the numbers published in the World of Organic Agriculture Report 2018, the country boasts of the largest number of organic producers in the world. With a count of over 835,000 certified producers, India makes up for thirty percent of the global share.
While the numbers do spell optimism for the organic industry in India, the fact also comes with its own regulatory needs to support similar uninterrupted growth in the future.
Until now, it was not mandatory for organic food produced locally to be certified as per strict regulations, before being actually sold under the organic label within India. As such, there wasn’t much of a regulatory thrust on the need to abide by any strict standards. However, the regulations step in right here to alter this prevailing norm.
What Exactly Are The New Regulations?
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently introduced quality standards to regulate and standardize what legitimately can be sold as organic produce in India.
The new rule makes it imperative for players in the organic food industry to undergo a thorough quality certification before being allowed to sell under the label of ‘organic’. This regulation is a step towards paving the way for standardizing, improving quality and ensuring maintenance and periodic monitoring of organic food. Necessary actions are to be taken against violators of the same.
These regulations are to be effective from July 2018 and apply to all under the umbrella of organic produce, including those pertaining to manufacture, sale, distribution, or even importing into the country.
Organic food producers have the option to be certified by either of the two prevailing systems – one, being the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) regulated by the Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The other, being the Participatory Guarantee System for India.
However, there are certain exemptions to this for small producers and organizations that sell the organic food directly to the end consumers.
What are the possible Implications of These Standards?
So, whether the move by FSSAI is a step in the right direction or not, is subject to debate. Let’s delve into them in the section below –
Keep A Tab On The Organic Food Quality
Organic food is free from the harmful effects of chemicals and pesticides. This is the predominant reason behind why organic produce is considered to be much healthier than its conventionally grown counterpart.
The regulations are to ensure that the food sold under the label of organic may contain no more than the 5% allowable limit of insecticide residues that are typically found in the non-organic ones.
For example, if the residue limit for insecticide Carbaryl in non-organic rice is 2.5 parts per million, the same in organic rice must be restricted to 0.0125 parts per million.
This measure should ensure that the quality of food being sold as organic meets a certain safety and quality benchmark.
Reduce Chances of Fraud
There are many fraudulent practices prevalent with regards to mislabelling and selling non-organic food as organic at a premium. The regulations make it mandatory for all the organic food that is even imported in India to be re-certified unless the exporting country is also following standards that are recognized to be an equivalent to NPOP.
This could be an actionable step that actually curtails the false and mislabelling of non-organic food.
Foster a Common Logo for Uniformity
Consumers often face their share of doubts when relying on the quality and authenticity of the organic food they are offered. This is an issue faced by even genuine organic crops and spices companies in India as they are unable to gain consumer trust.
In order to arrest this perpetual doubt, the regulations enacted by FSSAI have worked towards developing a common logo for all the organic food from India under the name of ‘Jaivik Bharat’. With better uniformity in organic products all over the country, there should be a higher growth of organically produced food too due to probable increased demand.
Additionally, with a portal in the same name also being in the pipeline, it should assist consumers to verify the authenticity of the organic food along with sharing their opinions and grievances, if any.
Due to the above-mentioned advantages, the residue standards seem to be a welcoming move, even endorsed by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE). However, there exists a school of thought with its views against these norms introduced by FSSAI.
Promote Third-Party Certification
With stringent regulations in place, the move may also dampen the actual field growth of actual organic produce. Some believe that these regulations will only strike a blow to the organic farming movement, thereby disrupting real food security, with all its red-tapism.
The regulation with all its procedures may simply end up just promoting the third party certification industry without much of a significant end result on real impact organic produce.
From what it appears at the onset, the FSSAI induced regulations with its careful attention to standardization and quality measures. should be a positive step towards standardizing organic farming in India and bringing the produce closer to the global developed standards, However, its real impact can only be known once the regulations are actually active.