Soil Association Organic

British-based organic food traders will from next year be banned from sending goods to the EU that have first been imported from elsewhere around the globe, Defra has confirmed.

While the UK/EU trade deal allows for exports to the bloc of UK organic products until at least 2024, it does not allow equivalence to be extended to the re-export of re-labelled or re-packaged imported organic products to the EU. 

After months of uncertainty, equivalence for those products was granted last December for an initial period of 12 months.

But as The Grocer first reported just over a week ago, there appeared little appetite to extend the agreement within the EU, leading to confirmation by Defra today that the equivalence agreement for the UK’s six organic certification bodies would expire at the end of the month, and meaning the goods will not be exportable to either the bloc or to Northern Ireland.

Products shipped from Ireland to the EU via the UK could also be affected. 26 member states voted in favour of not extending the agreement, with only Ireland voting in favour of its continuation.

Amid mounting speculation earlier this week, Roger Kerr, the CEO of Organic Farmers & Growers – and one of the six British bodies set to lose their status – said any revocation would “represent significant additional challenge and potential cost both in terms of accessing raw materials not produced in the UK and for businesses that have EU customers or EU manufacturing or raw material suppliers”.

OF&G estimated that about 5% of the UK’s total organic finished goods market was exported to EU, “but what percentage of that was ‘in or out’ of scope we don’t know”, he added.

“Our view is that a significant percentage of this would have been consolidated and re-exported,” Kerr said.

A Defra spokesman said “we have been in discussions with the Commission to find a mutually beneficial solution to allow for a re-export of third country goods that have not been processed in the EU or GB”.

“We continue to work closely with the sector in expanding and strengthening our export opportunities to third countries.”