Spices Board has given accreditation to the inspection and organic certification programmes of the following agencies: Indian Organic Certification Agency (INDOCERT) and LACON GMBH, Germany. All the organic products certified by the afore mentioned agencies are eligible for export.
The Spices Board is primarily involved in the export promotion, research and development of all spices. The Board also promotes organic production, processing and certification of spices. “Spices Board is a promotional organization constituted by the government of India for promoting exports of spices and spices products from India. It is the flagship of the Indian spice industry under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry,” says Mr. Dr. P.S.S. Thampi, Dy. Director (publicity).
It is headquartered in Cochin, Kerala. Spices Board has given accreditation to the inspection and organic certification programmes of the following agencies: Indian Organic Certification Agency (INDOCERT) and LACON GMBH, Germany. All the organic products certified by the aforementioned agencies are eligible for export.
Certification decisions are not limited to approval of operators, but also approval of products, changes in production, disciplinary measures etc. The inspection and certifying agencies ensure that each decision on certification is taken by person(s) different from those who carried out the inspection or assessment.
The Certification Process
When a new farmer contacts the Board expressing interest, the Board first explains the schemes of the Board regarding certification. “We also give them assistance for certification process to meet a part of the cost,” avers Mr. Thampi.
The certification policies and procedures include the following:
· All procedural steps in processing the application until the final certification.
· That the certification status of all operators and their production be indicated throughout the certification process.
· Procedures for extension and updating certification, including certification of individual products.
· That the certification decisions be recorded and clearly communicated to the operator.
· That, where certification is denied, the reasons shall be clearly stated.
· That the programme shall be able to impose conditions and restrictions.
· That the criteria for the acceptance of applicants, formerly certified by other certification programmes shall be documented.
· That, when asked for by the operator, relevant records are released to another certification programme.
· That processing of inspection reports and certification decision shall be done in a timely manner.
· That processing of any issue related to violations shall be done with highest priority.
Certification decisions are not limited to initial approval of operators, but also approval of products, changes in production, disciplinary measures etc. “The Inspection and Certifying Agencies shall ensure that each decision on certification is taken by person(s) different from those who carried out the inspection or assessment. The agency responsible for certification decisions shall reflect a diversity of stakeholders, without any single interest predominating,” says Mr. Thampi.
Promotion of Certification Programmes
The Spices Board does not directly deal with certification programmes. “We are not directly involved but we promote organic groups and provide support under budgetary schemes for certifications,” informs Mr. Thampi. The main customer segments the Board caters to are wholesalers, processors, manufacturers in various segments of food and food ingredients industry. When asked if a farmer can approach the Board for certification, Mr. Thampi clarifies, “The scheme is for organic groups of farmers. We extend support for showcasing products and for interface with prospective buyers too.”
When asked to rate the organic certification companies operating in India, Mr. Thampi praises their services to farmers. He says, “Many of them are doing good work and they could rope in sizeable number of farmers. The certificate is given mainly to the farmer. There are certifications for the processors also.”
Speaking about the minimum cost of getting an organic farming certification, Mr. Thampi says, “It depends on various conditions and also the number of farmers in the group. It also varies from agency to agency.”
When asked if it was easy to cultivate 100% organic produce in India without the use of any form of chemical pesticides, especially when the external environment (i.e. other farmers) is still not organic growers, Mr. Thampi agrees, “It may not be all that easy, but many in the field are following strictly the organic procedures. In locations where people are unable to do this, the focus is on good agricultural practices and integrated pest and disease management techniques.”
Advantages of Organic Practices
Mr. Thampi cautions that there isn’t any immediate monetary advantage that the farmers can reap on adopting organic farming but the long term benefits are immense. He says, “Immediate monetary benefits may not be possible, yet one has to ensure his establishment is a reliable source and then only can he promote his products. Many are trying to go organic indiscriminately, not for the sake of providing safe and hygiene food but for the sake of making good money. They may end up in trouble. Organic means not only in farming but also in life too. Cattle rearing is prelude to going organic.”
He further adds, “Honesty and integrity are important for adopting organic agriculture practices. There are guys who claim organic practices but in reality the claims are found baseless. The residue levels from testing and monitoring reveals this. The period of observance, the strict observations during conversion stages, the importance of inventory, etc everything matters.
The shift from inorganic to organic takes time and is gradual and not shifting from one plane to the other overnight.”
Speaking about the some of typical doubts the farmers have when they are introduced to organic farming, Mr. Thampi says, “People at the first instance will ask for the guarantee in terms of prices they may fetch for the organic products. It is a belief that organic products fetches margin in the market especially overseas, which is true.”
Initiatives to Promote
The board also promotes organic spices by encouraging and supporting farmers to take part in various fairs and exhibition across the world. Further speaking about the initiatives taken by the Board, Mr. Thampi says, “Our intention is to develop an organic segment for exports since there is a market for these products. The Board shows cases in the world’s biggest organic food show in Nuremberg in Germany every year. This fair is called the Biofach show of February every year. We encourage active organic farmers and organic farmer groups to participate in this show. Some of them are given financial assistance for air travel also to go to this fair. Enquiries for organic products are also passed on to these groups so that they may develop business deals.”