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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, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



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