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Group Certification: Advantages of Acting Jointly for Organic

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

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Tea pickers / symbol picture © Shutterstock/Nai_Pisage

A study by the research institute FiBL shows that most organic smallholders in Southern countries have formed groups and obtain their organic certification jointly. The study found that this system brings the farmers significant advantages. 

Smallholders in India, Kenia or Bolivia would never be able to afford individual organic certification. That is why organic certification is popular there: The farmers form a cooperative or producer association. These groups then build and implement an internal control system (ICS), through which the farmers’ compliance with organic regulations is monitored and controlled. Once a year, third party organic certification bodies control the proper functioning of this ICS, inspecting only a small sample of the group members. This saves time – and money.

Number of cooperatives is increasing

So far, no official statistics on ICS-certified producer associations were available. That is why FiBL conducted a study on the scope of group certification; it is estimated that approximately 2.6 million organic producers in 58 countries are organised into about 5.900 ICS-groups. These groups comprise between 20 and 40.000 members and jointly cultivate approximately 4.5 million ha of organic area.

According to FiBL, the number of groups increased significantly over the last few years. After all, the system has other advantages besides lower certification costs. Smallholders have better access to the market and can improve the quality of their products through know-how exchange on principles of organic farming, explains Florentine Meinhausen, the main author of the study.

The study additionally highlights concrete improvement opportunities: group certification should be regulated more clearly and the producer associations should focus more on the internal training of farmers on good organic production practices.


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