Anil Jadhav: Ecocert aspires to be a “solution providing company” rather than just a certification company

Ecocert is an inspection and certification body established in France in 1991 by agronomists aware of the need to develop environmentally friendly agriculture and of the importance of offering some form of recognition to those committed to this method of production. From its creation, Ecocert is specialised in the certification of organic agricultural products.

In India, Ecocert operates from its offices at Aurangabad (M.S.) and Gurgaon (Haryana). The journey so far, which was started in the year 2002, has seen a steady and promising growth, enabling thousands of farmers and many agri-entrepreneurs, spread across the sub-continent, benefitting from Ecocert’s quality services and acquiring newer domestic and international organic markets.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with The Organic Magazine, Anil Jadhav, Managing Director, Ecocert India, shares how there has been an increase in new inquiries in 2020 for organic food certification compared to previous years, as the demand for clean and safe food during the pandemic has increased and why he feels that Organic farming should be made an integral part of the syllabus of big agriculture universities.

What was the vision behind Ecocert?

Ecocert’s vision since last 3 decades has been promotion of sustainable practices through certification, consulting and training services. Ecocert is committed to organic farming since its creation to offer clean food, care for environment, and implementation of sustainability.

India has the largest number of organic farmers in the world but not in the area under organic cultivation. Your insights.

There are multiple reasons for these paradoxical situations, but 3 major reasons are 1) the average landholding for Indian farmers is much lesser (around 1.2 ha) than their counterpart in America, Europe or Australia. 2) Majority of the projects are under group certification (called as ICS) wherein 25 to 500 farmers join to form one grower group. This group farming was developed by APEDA to support small and marginal farmers. 3) need for more government incentive to support individual farms (cost of certification, input supply etc).

What is the level of awareness about organic certification in India?

The awareness in urban areas in increasing for organic food, but there isn’t enough understanding about organic certification. Organic food was not regulated in India before 2017 and there were many companies who were selling organic products without any certification. Absence of any legal mandate allowed many players to sell conventional products as organic. To improve the transparency and create awareness, FSSAI in collaboration with APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) and PGS India (Participatory Guarantee System for India), introduced “Jaivik Bharat” logo to help customers identify authentic organic food.

What role can the government play in changing this scenario?

I personally think that State and central government could make organic farming integral part of the syllabus of big agriculture universities. Creating well trained / educated manpower is the first step. There isn’t enough subsidiary or incentive for small farmers to start organic farming, compared to the conventional farmers (who use chemicals and pesticides to grow food). Government could also create separate mandis for organic farmers to sell their product and support in market linkage. Enabling corporates to spend their CSR funds to help famers to adopt organic farming.  Introduction of more government schemes focusing on organic agriculture – like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) can boost the organic sector. Encouragement to sustainable models of organic farming through a mix of traditional wisdom and modern science can ensure long term soil fertility build-up, resource conservation, and help in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

How difficult is it to get organic certification in India? What role has Ecocert played in smoothening the process?

The process of third-party certification in India is perceived to be complex due to applicable standard requirement, lack of technical know-how, cost of certification and limited internet connectivity. Ecocert supports by giving free basic training to group initially and later explaining the standards / process in the local language.

Your insights on the threat of frauds in organic certification.

In my personal opinion, Fraud in organic certification is a major threat and this has been impacting India’s image globally. India has a wonderful product range and government support to promote organic which few other countries have but a few fraud cases are taking away all the good work done by honest farmers and companies. To bring back the confidence of domestic consumers and international retailers, strict actions should be taken against companies manipulating the system.

What certifications does Eco Cert offer organic producers/companies? What are the benefits?

Ecocert offers a range of certifications, regulatory schemes likes NPOP/NOP (Europe and America), JAS (Japan), EOS (Europe), KOR (Korea), BR (Brazil), Input approval, and private schemes like Bio-Suisse, Naturland, Demeter (Food), COSMOS (Cosmetics), GOTS, OCS, GRS, (Textile), Fair for Life.

Benefits: Ecocert is one of leading certification bodies in the world with esteemed brand value and we offer multiple certification, be it regulatory or private. This helps our clients to have all sustainability solutions for business across the globe under one umbrella.

Have you seen any sudden increase in certifications in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Yes, we have more new inquiries in 2020 for organic food certification compared to previous years, as the demand for clean and safe food during pandemic has increased. We hope this trend will continue in future as well.

Future roadmap for Ecocert in India?

Ecocert aspires to be “solution providing company” rather than just a certification company. We remain committed to act in favour of the environment, in accordance with our convictions. By seeking to promote sustainable models, we are a part of the continuity of the principles defended by organic farming. Not only through certification, but also through training and consultation. We aim to help economic actors to analyse, consolidate or transform their practices for a better future.

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