Food

FSSAI rules for organic farmers ‘pushing them out of business’

Farmer organisations, companies say concerns not addressed

 
By Meenakshi Sushma
Last Updated: Friday 12 April 2019
Photo: Jitendra Choubey

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's (FSSAI's) organic food labelling policy has created an adverse reaction at the ground level. The idea was introduced on July 1, 2018 to support farmers and help consumers identify authentic organic produce, but labelling has pushed many farmers out of business.

The certification process is tedious and costly, and the FSSAI implemented in despite farmer protests. The Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) along with other organic industries and farmer associations put forward their concerns to the FSSAI in two meetings, held in February and March 2019. 

The FSSAI put out a draft notification on April 2, 2019, stating: “After careful consideration of the matter and in the context of the representation received, it is advised that these regulations may be considered as Enabling Regulations and not to be considered for prosecution particularly for small original producers and producer organisations during initial phase of its implementation till April 1, 2020.”

It also listed a few indicators which the food safety inspectors should consider in case of exemption. Out of the three indicators, one states that “small producer who is selling directly to the consumer, with turnover of Rs 12 lakh can be excluded from the certification”.

The notification, however, is not solving the problem, alleged Kavitha Kuruganti, member of ASHA. She, along with representatives from organic produce companies and organic farmer associations, wrote to FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal on April 8, 2019.

“What is the reason behind bringing a regulation which says that direct sales of uncertified organic produce to end consumers with the cap of Rs 12 lakh or more, can be excluded from the certification? There is really no need for certification or quality assurance in the first place as all such sales are direct and the consumer actually knows who the producer is,” read the letter.

The second indicator listed in the notification states that “small producer, sometimes may have only a small amount of produce and it will not be viable for the farmer to sell it directly. Hence, under certain circumstances the farmer can sell it through an intermediary who shall have a turnover of Rs 50 lakh and they can sell the products without certification.”

Kuruganti argues that these two points are contradictory each other. “We feel that many issues which have been raised during the meetings which took place earlier have not been taken into consideration. We hope that the one year would be used productively to address the issues,” states the letter to FSSAI.

Further, they requested that the “Enabling Regulations” be uniformly applied to all Food Business Operators (FBO).

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