Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the food regulation board of India has agreed to consider watering down the regulations it imposed on organic food that had kicked in from July 1 this year. This was the impact of protests against the new regulations by several organic farmer groups who met Pawan Agarwal, FSSAI’s chief executive officer (CEO) in Delhi.
Though the regulator had held extensive consultations with stakeholders before the drafting of the regulations, hasn’t seemed to have given much thought to things like lack of adequate certification agents, technical glitches while handling websites etc., which are necessary for successful implementation.
“Willing to relook”
0.28% of India’s agricultural land is for organic agriculture according to the World of Organic Agriculture– 2014 report. In the year of 2013-2014 alone, India’s organic agriculture production was 1.24 million tons.
“We are having a dialogue with organic farmers’ community and FSSAI is willing to relook at the points of contention and how implementation can become smoother,” HT reported Agarwal as saying. “Even though we had created an implementation committee and given them six months to comply, there still seem to be certain issues that have cropped up and need attention, especially the certification process.”
Not affordable or accessible
India had a mere 24 accredited agencies for inspection and certification of 0.5 million hectare organic farms as of August 2014. “It is not feasible for farmers as it is not affordable, and even accessible. It takes a lot of money to get an NPOP certificate issued in the first year and then one needs to keep renewing each year. For exporters, it makes sense to shell out huge sums of money but for us, who cater to the domestic market, it’s not cost-effective,” Vishalakshi Padmanabham, an organic farmer from Bengaluru, Karnataka, told the publication. “PGS-India certification system is a cumbersome process. Also, it takes a minimum of three of years to get the certificate for lack of enough certification agents; what do we do during the transition phase,” he added.
“What challenges crop up at the implementation level is something one can’t know at the level of drafting regulations. We try to modify regulations to remove impediments as we go along. Our aim is not to unnecessary harass anyone but to ensure consumers get safe and authentic food,” says Agarwal.