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Russia Plans Own Organic Food Certification

Published: March 26, 2014 (Issue # 1803)



  • A salesman at a LavkaLavka store stocking the shelves with organic products. The firm has been instrumental in promoting organic farming in Russia.
    Photo: Vladimir Filonov / SPT

  • Certification experts agree that giving a product an organic label is pointless if the farmer lacks integrity.
    Photo: Vladimir Filonov / SPT

A trained eye is needed to locate organic foodstuffs on the shelves of Russian supermarkets.

Only about 0.2 percent of all food consumed in Russia, a country of 143 million people, may be considered organic, according to the recently registered National Union of Organic Products Manufacturers and Consumers. The union estimates the value of organic products consumed annually in the country at around $150 million, of which imported foodstuffs are worth between $120 million and $130 million.

But new winds are blowing across the eco-friendly fields of Russia. Next year a law, if passed by the State Duma, will legally restrict the term “organic” to suppliers who grow food according to criteria in a bill prepared by the Agriculture Ministry, although there are concerns that the wording of the legislation could hinder exports.

So in 2015 it may no longer be the opinion of a farmer or a visiting foreign inspector determining whether vegetables and fruit have been exposed to chemical fertilizers or pesticides and whether meat came from animals treated with growth hormones.

New Label May Stall Russian Export

David Yavruyan has spent his whole working life in the agricultural sector, initially serving as a scientist at the Agriculture Ministry before becoming an inspector at its animal and plant health watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor. He is now an independent certification consultant within the project of Ecological Certification System, or ECS, launched by the LavkaLavka farmers’ cooperative, which has an internal system of certificates stating the level of a product’s organic origin.

He assists farmers in preparing products for certification inspection and provides consulting to conventional farmers who wish to become more environmentally friendly.

Yavruyan is far from pleased with the present draft of the bill. Although the bill contains various positive aspects such as insurance against crop failure, special loans, subsidies and support of consumer-agricultural cooperation, it has not been well received by parts of the organic farming community.

According to Yavruyan, the Russian criteria for organic food must match the European criteria. If not, the law has no purpose, he said.

“The problem is that the draft as it looks now does not provide an equivalent set of rules that would enable organic farmers to export,” he said. “If not altered, the bill will merely work as an export barrier for the Russian farmer.”

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK Fest, a five-day festival that started on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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