Organic Certification and the Global Marketplace

The importance of organic certification and what is happening in the global market place regarding organic produce.

"Organic product sales in the food and textile markets have risen considerably since the organic movement kicked off in the 1960s. The last ten years have seen a surge in growth – with global sales of organic food and organic textiles amounting to nearly $50 billion (USD).

While sales of organic produce have dropped in some Western countries as a consequence of the recent economic crisis, the Organic Trade Association in the US reported an impressive rise of 17% in organic sales in 2008. The total value of organic sales in the US currently stands at $24.6 billion – that’s half of the entire organic market. Organic cotton is a very strong growth area and has seen a sales rise of 63% in the US in the last year, with annual sales currently valued at $3.2 billion.

Organic Certification is vital. It not only regulates the sale of organic products but makes it possible. While many products make the claim of being ‘natural’ or ‘wholesome’ – an organic label is often seen as a mark of quality. Above all it prevents misrepresentation and helps promote organic produce.

As the market for organic produce continues to grow and become more and more mainstream, consumers require third-party certification to identify what they are buying. In the biggest organic markets – the US, EU and Japan - the commercial use of the term ‘organic’ is legally restricted and may only be used by organically certified producers.

In the US for example, only two product categories can be given the coveted USDA Organic Seal – those that are ‘100% Organic’ and those that are ‘Organic’ (i.e. contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients). Products made with at least 70% organic ingredients/materials qualify to be labelled ‘made with organic ingredients’ but products with less than that content cannot use the word ‘organic’ at all.

Because organic produce is a massive growth industry, hundreds of certifying bodies exist to administer a range of standards which can vary greatly in their value and stringency. Globally-recognized certification bodies tend to be members of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) (the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) or Ecocert.

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 small organic farmers who cannot qualify for organic standards because of size or other issues, however, their commercial value is far less than being certified organic. 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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Written for Countryfarm Lifestyles by Elizabeth Evers from, the leading B2B directory for certified organic suppliers, explains the importance of organic certification in 2009's global marketplace.

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