EU, US deal seen boosting trade in organic goods

Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:34am EST

* Mutual recognition of organic products from June

* Deal covers all agricultural goods except fish, seafood

* Use of antibiotics in production excluded from deal

By Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A deal announced on Wednesday to allow organically produced goods certified in Europe or the United States to be sold as organic in both regions is expected to boost transatlantic trade in the growth food sector, officials said.

The mutual recognition agreement by the world's two largest organic producers will take effect from June and is designed to increase market access for organic farmers and exporters in both regions by reducing costs and bureaucracy.

"We expect there will be a growth in trade as a result of this agreement," Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

"We think this is extremely positive for the organic marketplace, for consumers and farmers alike."

Under the agreement, products including meat, cereals and wine that receive organic certification in one region can automatically be labelled and sold as organic in the other.

The agreement covers all agricultural products apart from fish and seafood but excludes any goods that use antibiotics during production, which means that some EU-produced meat and U.S. apples and pears will not qualify.

"We tried to prove that we will not block the negotiations for this big agreement only because of specific things," Dacian Ciolos, EU agriculture commissioner, told Reuters.

GROWING MARKET

The global market for organic products was valued at 45 billion euros ($59 billion) in 2010 by Organic Monitor, which said annual sales growth remained healthy, despite a slowdown in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Together the EU and United States account for 90 percent of global organic consumption, the European Commission said.

"This agreement between the two biggest markets in organic production can have a positive impact on the development of organic agriculture around the world," Ciolos said.

"It will also be good for our consumers, because by reducing bureaucracy with this agreement we can also reduce costs, especially transactional costs."

The chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, Isi Siddiqui, said the agreement would particularly benefit smaller organic producers by reducing costs.

"Larger operations can compete quite easily, but I think that this deal will make it easier for small and medium-sized organic producers to access new markets, because we are removing those barriers," he said.

Rules on organic farming in Europe and the U.S. virtually prohibit the use of synthetic chemicals in crop production, ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and promote livestock practices specifically adapted to an animal's natural behaviour. ($1 = 0.7616 euros) (Editing by Jane Baird)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.