Japan is the latest country to sign an organic trade agreement with the US, and the first in Asia.
As of January 1, 2014 certified organic products can move freely between the US and Japan, growing markets, organic jobs across the supply chain and organic farming acreage in both countries.
It makes it much easier and cheaper for organic producers to export – it relieves them from having to get organic certification separately in both countries while ensuring the organic integrity of products. The result is higher profits for producers and lower retail prices.
Green tea, sake and mushrooms are currently the most popular organic exports from Japan to the US, according to the USDA. The US exports $80 million worth of organic products to Japan each year – much more than it imports. US organic exports to Japan include soybeans, cauliflower, nuts and processed products such as frozen meals. USDA estimates this agreement could more than triple those sales to $250 million a year over the next 10 years, reports Associated Press.
Equivalency agreements are signed after assessments conclude that both countries have “equivalent” programs for organic certification in terms of what it takes to get certified, managed and enforced. Although programs may not be identical, they achieve the same objectives and maintain the high-quality standards important to the integrity of both programs.
Under the agreement, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries will recognize products certified under USDA’s National Organic Program as equivalent to Japanese Agricultural Standards, allowing them to be marketed as certified organic in Japan. Likewise, certified organic products from Japan will be marketed as organic in the US. Both countries will require that the accredited certifier must be identified on the product label.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and US organic industry advocated for this agreement, which took “a decade of rigorous and thoughtful negotiations,” says Laura Batcha, Executive Vice President of OTA.
The agreement only applies to plant-based products, however, because Japan only has a voluntary program for organic meat and dairy. US organic producers of meat and dairy export to Japan under the USDA organic label.
This is the third organic trade agreement for the US. In 2009, the US and Canada signed the world’s first organic industry agreement, followed by a US-EU agreement in 2012. Since then, the US receives more organic grains from Canada and organic wines and olive oils from Europe, the most popular imports.
If you are an organic producer that needs help on exporting, OTA has an online Global Organic Trade Guide. Its Market Data section and map tool gives real time organic trade information for farmers, ranchers, and food processors who want to export to Japan and the world: