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Organic food certification standards Uganda

Despite the increasing demand for organic foods globally, Ugandan farmers are yet to reap from it fully with many still grappling with certification challenges.

According to Musa Muwanga Chief executive officer for National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU), the demand for organic products in Europe, particularly the UK, has been growing by 15 per cent every year. The US alone provides $3 billion (about UGX8 trillion) worth of market for organic products annually while globally, Mr Muwanga estimated the demand for organic food at $70 billion (nearly UGX200 trillion).

Standards are documented procedures approved by recognized institutions covering product safety, quality and production procedures and processes.Standards ensure product traceability and product integrity which are key concerns for the majority of organic consumers. Standards can also enhance product quality, safety and contribute to environmental good for all.

For Instance, the organic agricultural standards allow for sustainable use of natural resources and generally prohibit all forms of soil degradation, deforestation, water source pollution and runoff pollution all of which are vital in environmental management and conservation. Standards are marketing tools that facilitate trade by transmitting vital information and allow for comparison of products in a given market place. Standards enhance economies of scale

The market place is very dynamic with regular changes, the consumer demands are always constantly evolving. However some key standards have stood the test of time for the organic consumers. Some of the most important standards for the organic producer to adhere to include:

Regional Standards which are mandatory in a given geographical locations and these include;

• EU regulation (EC) 834/2007 and (EC) 889/08 for the European Union

• North American organic program standards (NOP) for the United States of America.

• Japanese Organic Agricultural standards (JAS) for the Japanese markets

• The East African Organic Products standards (EAOPS), for the East African Community market and related regional markets in Southern Sudan:

Private Label standards are voluntarily but contribute greatly to increasing your products demand, visibility and market share. These include among others;

• For Coffee 4c, Rainforest Alliance, Utz certified and fair trade

• For cotton and textiles: Fair trade

• Fruits and vegetables: Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Fair trade, HACCP

• For Animal products: HACCP BRC, Global Food safety Initiatives.

• For marine and Aquaculture products: Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), Best Aquacultural Practices (BAP)

Often times conformity assessment procedures to standards such as inspection and certification costs are too expensive and hence end up becoming prohibitive. Standards can act as non tariff barriers to trade. This is especially true for the duplicative audit procedures arising from differing systems in different countries.

Failure to recognize and accept certifications conducted by different certification bodies operating in multiple markets is the main cause for increased costs compliance and the resultant failure in market entry of mostly developing world imports into the developed countries markets.

Uganda has probably one of the fastest growing organic certified lands in Africa. The products grown organically and sourced from Uganda include cotton (lint, yarn and finished garments), coffee (Arabic and Robusta), sesame (simsim), dried fruit (Pineapples, apple bananas, mangoes, jack-fruit), fresh fruits ( pineapple, apple bananas, passion fruits, avocadoes, papaya (pawpaw), ginger), jack-fruit, , vanilla, cocoa, fish, shea butter and shea nuts, bird eyed chilies, dried hibiscus, honey and bark cloth. These products are exported to Europe, USA, Asia and other part of Africa among others.

The number of organic exporters in Uganda has been growing and now totals 44. All projects are fully certified or in conversion, from internationally accredited certifying bodies operating in Uganda.

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