Russia Plans Own Organic Food Certification
Published: March 26, 2014 (Issue # 1803)
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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