The NFU have said the decision will bring short term certainty for organic producers
The organic sector has welcomed recognition of the UK’s organic sector by the EU which will ensure continued access to vital EU and Northern Irish markets and bring certainty to producers.
The European Commission’s decision will mean that the UK’s six organic certification bodies will be recognised for 12 months following the end of the EU Exit transition period.
NFU organic forum chair Andrew Burgess said: “Exports to the EU have and always will be an important part of the UK organic supply chain and to be able to continue to export to that key market from January is a huge relief.
“While not the full mutual equivalency we have been pressing for, this decision should offer short-term certainty for those organic businesses who’ve been concerned over losing access to this valuable market.
“UK organic mutual equivalence with the EU is something the UK government has been seeking to be included as a technical annex within the draft Free Trade Agreement text currently being negotiated.
"We hope that an agreement is reached which mutually recognises the UK and EU as having equivalent organic standards to provide more long-term certainty for the organics sector.”
Roger Kerr, chief executive at Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G), welcomed the news.
"This will allow UK organic operators to continue to access European markets next year, which would have otherwise been closed to them from January 1 2021.
"While we estimate only around 5% of UK organic products are destined for the EU market, UK organic supply and demand is so finely balanced that the loss of these markets would have undoubtedly had a negative impact on producer returns at a time of considerable economic uncertainty.
"So overall, in the short term, it’s good news.
"However, the recognition is only for 12 months, which means that UK organic control bodies will have to apply again next year. And with the implementation of the new EU organic regulation on January 1 2022, there remains uncertainty around which EU organic regulation equivalence will have to be sought."
He added the best possible outcome would be to secure a national organic equivalency agreement between the UK and EU.
"This would potentially avoid the need for label changes and could mean that the requirement for certificates of inspection may be avoided once there is an agreement.
"This would be of significant benefit to operators."
He added OF&G was eager to see a ’comprehensive’ organic equivalency arrangement agreed between the UK and the EU as soon as possible.
"In the meantime, clarification is needed on the possibility of a grace period for label changes and when access to TRACES NT for UK exporters will be allowed. OF&G has requested clarification on these aspects from the EU."