Produce labeled as Organic or Biodynamic are Prescribed Goods under the Export Control Act (1982). This means that to legally export agricultural produce with reference to organic or biodynamic status in the labeling or corresponding documentation, each consignment needs to be approved for export by a government approved organic certification body (CB). There is a specific form known as an Organic (Export) Produce Certificate, which must be sent with each consignment of organic or biodynamic produce.

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In addition to meeting the legal requirements for organic produce leaving Australia, exporters must also be aware of relevant importing country requirements.

Unfortunately, at this stage, the importing country requirements relevant to organic produce claims are not included in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Manual of Importing Country Requirements (MICoR). For this reason, and for your information, below is a list of important export markets and a summary of the relevant requirements we are aware of. This list is not exhaustive, and may change without notice, so please also check directly with your certification body well in advance of sending organic produce overseas.

  • USA

    Organic labeling claims are regulated in the USA under their Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) is administered by their Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The USDA NOP Organic standard is included in the Code of Federal Regulations Regulatory Text 7 Part 205, Subpart A.

    Unfortunately, our federal government has not achieved an equivalence, or recognition agreement with the USA, so certification of produce to the USDA NOP standard is required to export there. This certification can be provided only by USDA accredited certification bodies, which exist around the world.

    In Australia, USDA NOP certification is provided by some CBs as an add-on to our baseline National Standard (NS) or Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACOS) certification. However, it is important to note that each product to be marketed in the USA as organic must be certified not only to our National Standard (to make it legal to export), but also to the USDA NOP Standard – to make it legal to be imported into the USA.

    There are some differences between our National Standard and the USDA NOP standard – for further information please refer to the relevant standards, and contact your CB if you have any queries.

  • Europe

    Europe has a strong history of leadership in regulation of organic produce claims and has had regulation in place since 1991. Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 defines the aims, objectives and principles of organic farming and production, and No 889/2008 and No 1235/2008 detail the organic production, labelling, control and import rules. Amendments to these regulations are published from time to time, and with new numbering, so it can be difficult to keep track. IFOAM EU provide this useful list of relevant EU regulations if you wish to learn more.

    There exists a government-to-government equivalence arrangement between Australia and the EU. This arrangement allows simple export of organic produce to European member states, with no additional requirements beyond the National Standard. However, the agreement has a limited scope – it excludes livestock, livestock products and wine. Also worthy of note is that the EU regulations are for food products only – cosmetics and textiles cannot be included.

    To make up for the exclusion of livestock and wine from the government equivalence arrangement, some of Australia’s certification bodies have achieved approved control body status under the EU regulations, via the International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS), utilising the Australian Certified Organic Standard Annex VI (which is deemed equivalent for livestock and wine).

    It is worthy of note that the EU regulations have recently been replaced, and as part of this process, all equivalence agreements must be re-negotiated by 2025. We intend to encourage and assist our government in achieving a renewed agreement which includes livestock and wine to reduce cost and streamline market access for these product types.

  • Canada

    Similar to the USA, Canada have implemented national legislation (Organic Products Regulations) and a certification scheme that is controlled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

    Fortunately, the equivalence arrangements that have been struck between the USA and Canada includes third countries. What this means is that Australian organic produce can be sent to Canada, as long as it is certified to the USDA NOP, and carries an additional Attestation of Compliance to the Canadian Organic Products Regulations. Organic produce sent to Canada under this arrangement must however comply to the Canadian labeling rules – including use of their Canada Organic Logo. For further details, contact your USDA accredited certification body.

  • UK

    As the UK has now left the EU, the equivalence arrangement that is in place with the EU no longer includes UK market access. Trade negotiations are underway with the UK, which are likely to include organic produce. In the mean time, the UK has confirmed that market access will continue to be granted under the prior EU equivalence arrangement, at least until December 31st, 2020.

    Australian Organic is contributing to these negotiations in the hope that our government will quickly develop with a plan for continued market access in 2021 and beyond. For further information on the unfolding situation with the UK, please refer to the Gov UK website.

  • Taiwan

    Australia recently achieved an equivalence arrangement with Taiwan, which allows Australian operators to export organic produce to Taiwan without any additional certifications. However, there are some exclusions and also some additional requirements for each consignment that exporters should be aware of.

    For a full list of exclusions and additional consignment by consignment requirements, please refer directly to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) announcement.

  • China

    The use of the word ‘organic’ on produce in China is regulated by the National Standards for the People’s Republic of China: Organic Products (GB/T19630-2011).

    There are various government departments involved in the implementation of the above regulation. There exists a national logo, which is mandatory. Unfortunately, we do not have a government equivalence arrangement, and no Australian certification bodies are able to directly offer certification for this market, however some have put in place commercial agreements with Chinese certification bodies, allowing a cooperative approach to provision of China market access for Australian exporters.

    ACO Certification Ltd, and NASAA Certified Organic may be able to assist with Chinese market access via commercial agreements with Chinese certification bodies.

    We are aware that some exceptions may exist to the mandatory Chinese certification requirement, however only for online or home delivery sales, via bonded warehouse in a designated free trade area of China, but such allowances may be risky and subject to change, without notice.

For more information regarding export market access and export requirements, please contact your certification body.