Organic certification body Organic Farmers & Growers has teamed up with global accreditor Control Union UK, in a move designed to open up international markets for its certified food suppliers.
Under the partnership, OF&G-certified businesses will be able to use CUUK’s global accreditation network to become certified through its partner international organic schemes, such as the Japanese Agricultural Standard or the US National Organic Program.
Overseas organic suppliers wishing to become certified in the UK will also benefit from the partnership, with CUUK staff overseas now able to accredit on behalf of OF&G.
The move was an “exciting development for OF&G, said the body’s CEO Roger Kerr, and enabled it to offer certification on a global scale. OF&G certifies more than half the organic land in the UK, and represents about 30% of the total UK organic sector, with brands such as Müller, Ella’s Kitchen and Kellogg’s certified by the body.
“It allows us to build organic business opportunities not only in the UK, but in the EU and across the world through CUUK’s extensive accreditation portfolio and international reach,” he added.
“When OF&G operated standalone, if a business in another country wanted to certify to organic standards in the UK, we’d fly an inspector out. Now, because CUUK have ‘boots on the ground’ in numerous countries, the process becomes much simpler and certifications can be combined.”
The collaboration was doubly important due to the impact Brexit would have on organic certification, Kerr added.
“Not only do operators have to deal with EU regulation, they now need to consider UK regulation in a post-Brexit world,” he said.
“With more regulation to contend with, not to mention the additional time and expense it incurs at every step in the food supply network, we want to help consolidate this process by certifying to EU and UK regulations simultaneously. Together with CUUK, we can make this happen.”
However, he stressed “we still don’t know what UK organic regulation will look like long-term and that uncertainty needs addressing”.
CUUK MD Franco Costantini said uniting with OF&G aligned to the accreditor’s ambitions to expand the food assurance market in the UK and Ireland. “OF&G have over 20 years’ experience in organic certification and a long-standing presence in the UK. Alongside this, we offer an extended network of auditors, access to international markets and a diverse portfolio of accreditation programmes.”
The move follows a similar partnership between OF&G rival Soil Association Certification and French organic body Ecocert earlier this month.
However, the issue of access to the EU for UK organic food in the event of a no-deal Brexit remained unresolved at the time of writing, amid concerns suppliers could in effect be locked out of the market because a reciprocal agreement with the bloc is yet to be agreed.