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Organic produce is often marketed as non-toxic in Chennai but without any certification. Sales depends on trust created by word of mouth.

Below is the second part of (read first part here) of the interview with Arogyam Organic Foods managing director S Arumugasamy on this topic.

What is the procedure for an organic producer to sell his produce?
The Union government has created certifying agencies as part of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) through APEDA or Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. If the produce is to be exported to the US, the certificate to be obtained is from the National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture.

In India, Ecocert, Indocert, Bureau Veritas, OneCert, SGS Organic, Iscop, IMO Control, Control Union, Vedic Organic, FoodCert, Noca and Lacon Quality are some of the agencies. The Tamil Nadu government’s TNOCD is also a certifying agency.

S Arumugasamy-Arogyam Organic Foods managing director

What is the procedure to apply?
Those wishing to take up organic farming should register with one of these agencies and do farming for three years without any chemical inputs. Then the produce should be tested and analyzed to ensure the presence of chemicals is less than the Maximum Residue Limits. Only then, the certification can be obtained. If the chemical content is above the MRL, the farmer will have to wait for more time to achieve the target.

Farms that have been certified organic should register the production in TraceNet run by APEDA as well as in the “chitta” register of land survey numbers maintained by the local VAO. If say an acre of paddy is to be sown, then the estimated organic yield should be registered with TraceNet.

Produce grown in those farms should obtain a transfer certificate giving details such as the farmer, procurer, vehicle that transported the produce along with the amount in tonnes. Only then will the produce be considered organic. Five hundred tons cannot be shown in one acre of organic farmland.

This system ensures there is credibility to the organic certified products. Only after such a rigorous procedure can organic produce be legitimately sold and higher price obtained for it.

Across cities, such as Chennai, we find lots of stores claiming to be 100% organic. Are these claims true?
Most of them don’t quite sell certified organic produce. Consumers should ask shop owners which ones of their produce are organic and where they are produced.

There is a marketing term of natural farming. What does that mean?
In registered organic shops, only organic produce can be sold. There are rules on what information the certifying labels should give. Publicity should be as per those rules. Products that are sold as natural have no link with natural farming. They can possibly be advertised as procured from the forest, at best. They can be considered traditional or ethnical food, not organic.

Our small organic farmers are very emotional. They have this idea that our forefathers were not fools and therefore advocate tradition. They don’t agree that proper procedures should be followed

Doesn’t this create difficulties for the small farmer who wants to cut costs?
Small organic farmers can easily sell their produce locally since their consumer would know them. Only when they want to sell to urban centers does certification enter the equation. Urban consumers can only go by the organic certification and label because they don’t now the producer. There is a need to standardize the system.

Is the process the same if farmers want to sell in the US or Europe?
In India, rules allow some chemical content. In the US, the MRL should be zero. If cow dung or cow urine had been used as input material, the use should have happened within 40 days. They feel that after that after 40 days, unhealthy substances form and enter the produce.

In Tamil Nadu, most organic farms use cow dung and urine as inputs.
Our small organic farmers are very emotional. They have this idea that our forefathers were not fools and therefore advocate tradition. They don’t agree that proper procedures should be followed. They don’t understand consumer rights. Only when times change and it becomes necessary that rules regarding organic certification should be followed for credibility, will there be a change.

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