USDA National Organic Program Changing Approach to Organic Oversight in India

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USDA is increasing its oversight in the Indian organic market to better monitor organic products coming into the United States.

On Jan. 11, 2021, USDA notified India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA) that they are ending U.S.-India Organic Recognition. The decision comes as USDA deemed India’s organic control system unable to adequately protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal.

The previous agreement between USDA and APEDA allowed APEDA-accredited certifiers to provide USDA organic certification in India, according to the USDA website (ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/international-trade/India).

USDA is altering the agreement so that all India organic products/ingredients across the entire supply chain are to be certified as USDA organic with a USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certificate in order to come to the U.S. starting July 12, 2022. USDA will allow a one-and-a-half-year transition period for India organic suppliers and U.S. buyers in order to help minimize market disruption as a result of the new requirements. During this period, organic operations previously certified by APEDA-accredited certifiers will be allowed to apply for direct certification to NOP by USDA-accredited certifiers.

The exact timeline of the transition period, according to USDA, is as follows:

  • Jan. 11, 2021: APEDA notified of an end to U.S.-India Organic Recognition.
  • March 2021: Certifiers are to report any certification applicants who are currently certified by APEDA in India in the Organic Integrity Database (public data). This will help U.S. buyers verify that a farm or business in India has applied for NOP certification.
  • July 12, 2021: Any India organic business wanting to export to the U.S. must have applied for USDA/NOP certification.
  • July 12, 2022: To export to the U.S., all India organic products/ingredients across the supply chain must be certified USDA organic with a USDA/NOP certificate.

Organic businesses in the U.S. buying from an India organic supplier certified by an APEDA-accredited certifier must communicate with those suppliers about the need to apply for NOP certification to a USDA-accredited certifier by July 12, 2021. USDA states that USDA-accredited certifiers may issue USDA/NOP certification to any organic business verified to fully comply with USDA organic regulations throughout the transition period.

India organic suppliers cannot continue business with U.S. buyers after July 12, 2021 if they do not apply for the NOP certification. The Organic Integrity Database will need to be used by buyers to verify existing certification or a pending application with a USDA-accredited certifier. The database can be accessed at organic.ams.usda.gov/Integrity/.

Organic suppliers in India that are certified by an APEDA-accredited certifier will need to identify USDA-accredited certifiers previously approved under the U.S.-India recognition agreement. To accomplish this, visit apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/NPOP_certification_bodies.pdf and refer to the “Validity of Current Accreditation” and “Scope of Accreditation” columns. Suppliers that do not apply for certification by July 12, 2021 will be barred from exporting USDA organic products to the U.S.

India suppliers currently accredited by APEDA for USDA certification may apply to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for direct accreditation at any time.