The UK organic industry has described as a “huge relief” confirmation last week that the European Union will formally recognise all six UK organic certifiers for 12 months after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
The development follows intense industry efforts in London and Brussels to secure continuity of trade for UK organic exporters to the bloc in 2021. Fears had been growing that a no-deal Brexit would have resulted in UK organics being shut out of its biggest export market, while Britain applied for ‘third country’ organic equivalency status – a process that can take as long as a year.
But last week, under draft legislation signed by commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Brussels concluded that “it is justified to recognise” the UK’s six organic certification bodies for 12 months.
“We’re delighted that extensive efforts to guarantee equivalency of UK organic products in Europe post-Brexit have paid off”
Welcoming the news, Lee Holdstock, senior business development manager at Soil Association Certification, said:“With several of the anticipated arrival dates having passed without news, we’re delighted that extensive efforts to guarantee equivalency of UK organic products in Europe post-Brexit have paid off. It’s with huge relief we can confirm that Soil Association Certification and all other UK organic certification bodies are now listed within the most recent amend to regulation EC1235/2008, until at least the end of 2021.
“Although the possibility of a trade deal including provision for organic equivalency is not exhausted, this approval provides much needed assurance to all organic businesses on their future access to the European and Northern Irish organic markets. We hope to remain in conversation with the European Commission as details are progressed, and labelling guidance and any further news from the EC regarding grace periods will be shared with all Soil Association Certification Licensees as a matter of urgency.”
Richard Hampton, managing director at the organic milk cooperative OMSCO told The Grocer that the development was “very, very good news”, but added that it was still “not the ideal outcome”. He told the food industry weekly: “We’ve lost one particular contract that we can’t get back even if the vote goes through this week. And the extension for a year still doesn’t allow us to do a long-term deal beyond a year.”