FSSAI had initiated strategies to improve organic standards and governance in India in June this year, but reinforced this order in the third quarter amidst continuing public concern over adulterated organic products in the market.
This was also driven by increased government emphasis on growing organic exports earlier in September, which was announced by India’s Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal.
“The global market for organic foods is around US$135bn, of which India is only taking a US$700mn share,” he said via in a formal address.
“There is a lot of potential for growth here in organic foods, and this is a very important area [to India] so we are focusing on growing this sector.
“[Right now], more awareness must be generated regarding India’s organic food standards, and [to comply] with the standards of importing markets – one important thing to do is to promote our India organic logo to help improve the credibility of our organic products in the international market.”
India already has a wide range of organic food items from fruits such as avocado and passion fruit to grains such as rice and millets. All organic foods need to carry the local logo with the wording Jaivik Bharat in order to be legally recognised as organic.
This organic logo was established in India back in December 2017 and was widely publicised by the government, but food safety concerns have continued to run rife over potential adulteration despite its use.
Earlier this year, an FSSAI crackdown revealed over 170 cases of adulteration amongst products being sold in India within just six months, covering multiple areas usually requiring certification such as health supplements and organic foods.
In light of increased government focus and consumer fears surrounding the organic sector, FSSAI has responded by mandating that more organic testing and analysis be made available in all state-authorised laboratories.
“The Government has decided to promote organic products in India [and the] success of this depends on reliable testing, to ensure the authenticity of organic products,” FSSAI Quality Assurance Advisor Dr. Satyen Kumar Panda stated via a formal statement.
“Therefore, all food testing laboratories will need to optimise their facilities and procedures [to prepare to] handle organic testing efficiently and accurately.
“All FSSAI Notified laboratories are hereby directed to review current capabilities [in this area [and take] the necessary steps to enhance organic product testing, as well as to apply to the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) as a recognised laboratory for organic testing.
“Labs must also apply to the APEDA National Referral Laboratory to take part in proficiency testing, as a pre-requisite to qualify as a laboratory that can conduct pre-export testing for organic product exports.”
India’s organic potential
It should come as no surprise that India is hoping to capitalise on organic food exports due to its already significantly large presence in the sector.
According to government data, the country has some 5.71 million hectares of certified organic land for crops, and ranks ninth globally for organic land area. It also has the largest number of organic food producers in the world, generating some 1.35 million MTs of organic foods for export yearly.
Expand the reach of exports from this sector would undoubtedly be a profitable and valuable move for India – but before significant growth can be achieved here, there is definitely a strong necessity to build up consumer trust and confidence – for both local and overseas consumers - in organic products originating from India.