FSSAI receives letter on concerns with regard to its organic food regulations and implications for uncertified organic farmers

3:15 pm in News by Kavitha

To:                                                                                                                                          April 8th 2019

The Chief Executive Officer,

Food Safety & Standards Authority of India,

FDA Bhawan, New Delhi.

 

Dear Shri Pawan Kumar Agarwal,

Sub: Direction dated 2nd April 2019 regarding enforcement of the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 – reg.

Greetings! We have gone through the Direction (15 (21) 2018/Organic/RCD/FSSAI) dated 2nd April 2019 issued by the FSSAI on 2nd April 2019, regarding enforcement of the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017. We have noted that both FSSAI and Ministry of Agriculture are trying to address the serious issues emerging from the ground when it comes to the implications for organic farmers.

We sincerely appreciate the FSSAI’s communication to enforcement wings that the December 2017 regulations may be considered as “Enabling Regulations”, and not to be considered for prosecution till 1st April 2020. We have also noted that a review will take place in six months’ time based on feedback related to enforcement. We further appreciate that FSSAI took note of the fact that a large number of producers and producer organisations in the country are not certified under any of the two systems of certification today ie., NPOP and PGS-India, and this acknowledgement helps, and needed to be communicated to the enforcement officials too. We took note of the fact that the Direction includes a new category for eligibility for exemptions, that of “aggregators/intermediaries” who deal with small producers and are within an annual turnover of organic produce not exceeding Rs. 50 lakhs/annum.

While going carefully through this Direction of 2nd April 2019, we realise that while it provides an advisory around “enabling regulations”, it does not provide clarity on the following pending matters:

  1. While the initial part of the Direction clearly says that these may be considered ‘enabling regulations ..…  till 1st April 2020’, implying that it is for everyone, towards the end it goes on to say that it ‘does not apply to organic food retail companies which shall comply with all the requirements of the Regulations of 29/12/2017’. This is self-contradictory and is not in consonance with the underlying reasons for issuing these Directions and all the ground level issues that groups like ours have placed in front of FSSAI and others. If it continues to be operative for organic food retail companies, it would continue to adversely affect marketing opportunities for a large number of uncertified farmers even when the underlying issues have not been sorted out. Only when this period of 1 year of enabling regulation is made operative across the board and this period of one year is used to sort out various issues, would it be useful; otherwise, havoc caused by FSSAI regulation on uncertified farmers will not go away.

 

  1. Coming to the exemption categories, it is unclear to this day what constitutes a Producer Organisation. Further, why is the cap on annual turnover of organic produce the same (12 lakh rupees) for a small original producer (individual) and a producer organisation (which is a collective of producers)?

 

  1. What is the logic behind bringing under regulation direct sales of uncertified organic produce to end consumers with the cap of 12 lakhs or more, when there is really no need for certification or quality assurance in the first instance in all such direct sales and when the Act excludes farmers?

 

  1. It is unclear who is an aggregator/intermediary who can collect organic food from “small producers” and sell it to the end consumer directly. Further, why is this limited to their procurement only from uncertified ‘small producers’ when these aggregators/intermediaries exhibit/incorporate very short supply chains, clear traceability and thereby, no requirement for certification? It appears that this exemption category will not benefit farmers, and has been rendered meaningless, due to the following aspects which FSSAI did not take into consideration:

(i)                  That these aggregators/intermediaries will also need to take up some primary processing, often with the help of another entity. Therefore, Aggregation/Intermediary role in the value chain should be envisaged as requiring primary processing function also, in-house or out-sourced.

(ii)                That in the case of farmer producer organisations of different kinds who collect produce of members in the organisation, they may not be able to sell to end consumer directly, and would still need one more stage of aggregator/intermediary/retailer, for this exemption to be meaningful for them.

(iii)               Such aggregators/intermediaries (including handlers) do not break-even or find their business viable at 50 lakh turnover, and often have to go up to at least Rs. 2 crores for reaching a viable stage. Importantly, this intermediary/aggregator in the value chain is more or less like direct sale to the end consumer, and therefore, the logic for a cap on annual turnover of organic produce sales is unclear.

 

  1. It is unclear what the FSSAI means when it says that the guidance in the 2nd April 2019 Direction ‘does not apply to organic food retail companies which shall comply with all the requirements of the Regulations of 29/12/2017’. Does it mean that if an exemption-eligible aggregator/intermediary is registered under the Companies Act, including as a Producer Company, the exemptions do not apply? Or, is a Retailer having a different definition in the FSSAI parlance than the aggregator/intermediary who is also supposed to engage in direct sales to the end consumer? As stated earlier, the fact that this has been included in the Direction defeats the very purpose of communicating to the enforcement officials that this is an “enabling regulation”, causes confusion, and discretionary space at the frontline level.

We also find that this Direction does not address other issues that have been discussed in the March 19th 2019 meeting, which are still pending:

  1. No mention or resolution of the issues of handlers and processors who have no solutions in the current NPOP or PGS-India regimes as explained in our earlier detailed notes (this then affects both uncertified and certified organic farmers and their opportunities to market organic produce after the FSSAI regulations got notified).
  2. Endorsements required from FSSAI, product by product, as per Direction (15 (21) 2018/Organic/RCD/FSSAI) dated 24th January 2019, and dated 29th June 2018.
  3. The lack of scientificity in a uniform 5% permissible limit for residues, to account for inadvertent contamination.
  4. We had alluded to the Canadian regulations, wherein the federal regulations do not apply to intra-provincial trade. Though we have been told that you will look into this, it is not clear what discussions took place and what the conclusions around this are.

Importantly, we also find no resolution to the fact that FSSAI is still in contravention of Sec. 18(3) of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.

To sum up what FSSAI has included as concessions for farmers being affected, uncertified organic producers today (who incidentally are the largest number of organic producers in India currently) will have their livelihoods unaffected by this regulation, only if they engage in direct sales that too within a turnover of 12 lakh rupees even if they are an organic producer organisation, OR if they can show themselves to be “small producers” and sell to those intermediaries/aggregators (who may not be able to process raw produce) who are within 50 lakhs of organic produce turnover annually. This is seriously limiting and does not solve the problem of lakhs of uncertified organic farmers.

We feel that many of the issues that have been raised in several rounds of representations have not been taken into consideration to this day (we attach as annexure our last correspondence with you after our March 19th 2019 discussions in the special meeting convened by the Chairperson of FSSAI, after which we had sent in our notes on improvements sought in PGS-India, improvements sought in NPOP regime, proposals to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare for alternative/additional certification regimes, our suggested list of experts to be included in the Expert Committee etc.).

We expect that FBOs registered with/licensed by FSSAI will continue to avoid procuring from uncertified producers, citing these regulations. The direct (by bringing in direct sales by producers under regulation, with an unjustified cap on annual turnover) and indirect impact (by FBOs opting to take produce of only certified organic farmers, and for a small farmer or producer organisation who has to sell small quantities to non-exempted entities but will then need a certification) of this regulation continues more or less the same way as before our March 19th 2019 discussions, despite efforts put in to share the ground level problems with FSSAI.

However, we hope that the breathing space of one year would be used productively to address these issues. In this context,

  1. We request you to clarify unambiguously that this Direction about “Enabling Regulations” is to be uniformly applied to all FBOs.
  2. We request you to kindly look into all the other pending matters too, even as we also continue to keep track of instances of enforcement from all over the country so that civil society and also other stakeholders can feed into the review (not just the Food Safety officials), and also continue to engage with other concerned Ministries.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sd/-

  1. Adi Kumuruka, Bissamcuttack Producers’ – Consumers’ market, Odisha
  2. Ajay Etikala, Organic Ubuntu, New Delhi
  3. Akash Badave, Bhoomgaadi FPC, Chattisgarh
  4. Anandi Yadav, Jivit Mati Kisan Samiti, Kedia, Bihar
  5. Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu
  6. Anil Kumar, Sahodaya Trust, Gaya, Bihar
  7. Anil Singh, SANSAD, Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh
  8. Anirudh Vashisht, Safe food activist, Sunam
  9. Arun Ambatipudi, Chetna Organic, Odisha/Telangana/Maharashtra
  10. Arun Mo, Vidhai Organic Store
  11. Ashok Joshi, Himalayan Organic Produce Company, Uttar Pradesh
  12. Badribhai Joshi, Shantigram Nirman Mandal, Dist Bharuch, Gujarat
  13. Bhupendra Singh, Sangata Sahbhagi Gramin Vikas Sanstha, Sarguja, Chattisgarh
  14. Chaitanya Bhatt, Lokmitra, Dhedhuki, Dist: Rajkot, Gujarat
  15. Devesh Patel, Madhya Gujarat Sajiv Kheti Samaj Dist Kheda, Gujarat
  16. Dhamu, Lingabhairavi Organic, medavakkam, Chennai
  17. Dr. Dinesh Patel, Sardar Farm, Kathwada, Ahmedabd, Gujarat
  18. Ekta Kothari Jaju, SwitchON, Kolkata
  19. Gauri Sarin, Bhumijaa (a pan-Indian organic agri-preneurs platform), Gurugram, Haryana
  20. Gopi Deva, Organic Farmers Market, Chennai
  21. Gopi Sankara Subramani, Navadarshanam, Bangalore
  22. Gurmukh Singh, Kudrat Hut, Batala, Punjab
  23. Gursher Singh & Ranjodh Singh, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Amritsar
  24. Gurvinder Sharma, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Faridkot
  25. Harinesh Pandya, Janpath Network, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  26. Hem Khosla, Organic Matters, Jalandhar
  27. Himanshu Limbasiya, Vanaganga, Rajkot, Gujarat
  28. Illiyas, Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI)
  29. Ishteyaque Ahmed, Greenpeace India, Bangalore
  30. Jagpreet Singh, BioAppetito, Chandigarh
  31. Jitendra Prasad, South Indian Organic Producers and Retailers Assocation (SOPRA), Chennai
  32. Kamaljit Singh Hayer, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Muktsar
  33. Kanimozhi, Ainthinai Organic Store, Chennai
  34. Kapil Shah, Jatan, Vadodara
  35. Kavitha Kuruganti, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Bangalore
  36. Kesavan, Balaji Organic, Kundrathur, Chennai
  37. Kiran Vissa, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Hyderabad
  38. Krishna Prasad, Sahaja Samrudha, Karnataka
  39. Madhusoodhanan, Dhanyam Organic Superstore, Chennai
  40. Manoj Solanki, Ramkrushna Trust, Bhuj, Gujarat
  41. Manuj Terapanthi, Organic Shop, Jaipur
  42. Meera Marn, Terra EarthFood, Chennai
  43. Mini Pant, food safety activist, Dahanu, Maharashtra
  44. Mithun Shah, Asal, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  45. Mushtaq, Rain Organic, Perambur, Chennai
  46. Nagarajan, OFM Karima Foods, Annanagar, Chennai
  47. Nalini, Mahatma Naturals, Chennai
  48. Neha Jain, safe food activist, Faridabad, Haryana
  49. Pamayan, Adisil Solai, Madurai
  50. Pankaj Jain, Safe Food activist, Jalandhar
  51. Pankaj Pathak, Safe food activist, Indorra, Kangra HP
  52. Parthasarathy VM, Thiruvallur Farmers Coordination Committee
  53. Parul Zaveri, Kanika Organic Farm, Nandej
  54. Parvinder Pal, Sutra Handicrafts Pvt Ltd, Delhi
  55. Prabhpreet Singh, MOOL Foundation, New Delhi & Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
  56. Prasanna, Valam Organics, Chennai
  57. Priyanka Gupta, safe food activist, Ludhiana
  58. Prof Duraisingham, Consumer Research Education Action Training and Empowerment (CREATE) Trust, Paramakudi, Tamil Nadu
  59. Radhika Rammohan, reStore, Chennai
  60. Rahul Saxena, Samridhi, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
  61. Rahul Sharma, Safe food activist, Chandigarh
  62. Raja Sankar, Madhu Farms, Sriram Foods, Pollachi, Coimbatore
  63. Rajani Patel, Sabakantha Sajiv Kheti Samaj, Modasa, Gujarat
  64. Rajeev Kohli, Swadeshi Haat Gurdaspur, Gurdaspur, Punjab
  65. Rajesh Krishnan, Thirunelly Agri Producer Company Ltd, Wayanad
  66. Rajinder Chaudhary, Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana
  67. Rajiv Gupta & Rakesh Kharbanda, Kudrat Hut, Ludhiana
  68. Ramanathan, Sankaranti Organic, Mylapore, Chennai
  69. Ramchandra Patel, Surtapi Organic Farmers Producers’ Company, Olpad, Dist Surat
  70. Ramesh Patel, Srishti, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  71. Ramesh, Satvik: Promoting Ecological Agriculture, Bhuj, Gujarat
  72. Ramgulam Sinha, Shridhanya Jaivik Kisan Sangh, Gariyaband, Chattisgarh
  73. Raspinder Singh, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Ludhiana
  74. Ravideep Singh, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Barnala
  75. Ravish Vasan, Sattvam Agro, Patna, Bihar
  76. Rayson Rappai, OTR Organic Farm Products
  77. Rekha Ramu, Farmer & Co., Tamil Nadu
  78. Rohit Jain, OFAI/Banyan Roots, Udaipur, Rajasthan
  79. S. Ponkumar, Aadhya Organic Store, Trichy
  80. Samatbhai Jada, Dharamitra Sajiv Kheti Mandal, Dharei, Dist: Surendranagar, Gujarat
  81. Sanjeev Sharma, Swadeshi Haat Jalandhar, Jalandhar
  82. Saravanan K, Barefoot Academy of Governance, Perambalur
  83. Sarvadaman Patel, (President, Biodynamic Association of India and Ex. President, OFAI), Bhaikaka Krushikendra, Near Anand, Gujarat
  84. Seethalakshmi, Safe Food Sundays, Chennai
  85. Selvam Ramaswamy, Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation, Erode
  86. Seshu, The Eco Store, Bangalore
  87. Shamika Mone, Kerala Jaivakarshaka Samiti, Kerala
  88. Shrikant M Hebbal, Gramya Turnkey Services Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
  89. Shripal Shah, Asal, Ahmedabad
  90. Smita-Harish, Organic Farmer, Dist Vadodara, Gujarat
  91. Sreedevi Lakshmikutty, BioBasics, Coimbatore
  92. Sreekanth, Sree Vrindavan Organics, Porur, Chennai
  93. Sriram, Vaer Organic, Chennai
  94. Subramaniyan, Aspar Enterprises (Organicz4U), Bangalore
  95. Sukhwinder Pappi, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Sangrur
  96. Sunayana, Lipika & Shipra, Kudrati Kisan Haat, Jalandhar
  97. Suresh, S2, Organics, Nanganallur, Chennai
  98. Tomy Mathew, Elements, Kerala
  99. Uday Bhole, Jaivik Setu, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
  100. Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab
  101. Usha S, Thanal, Trivandrum
  102. Vaishali Gadgil, Shashwat Organics, Pune, Maharashtra
  103. Vasant Futane, Nagpur Beejotsav Group, Maharashtra
  104. Venkatesh, Real Organic, Madipakkam, Chennai
  105. Vipul Kamboj, Amrytam Aahar, Sirsa, Haryana
  106. Vivek Bhandari, Organic Garhwall, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
  107. Yla Smetacek, Organic Farmers Collective, Bhimtal, Uttarakhand

Attachment: Our letter dated 20th March 2019

 

—– Forwarded message —–

From: Kavitha Kuruganti <kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com>

To: ceo@fssai.gov.in <ceo@fssai.gov.in>

Cc: Rajinder Chaudhary <rajinderc@gmail.com>; Jatan Trust <jatantrust@gmail.com>; Thanal Mail <mail.thanal@gmail.com>; Radhika Rammohan <radhika.rammohan@gmail.com>; Akash Badave <akashsbadave@gmail.com>; Arun Ambatipudi <arun.ambatipudi@chetnaorganic.org.in>; Vineet Kumar <vineet@cseindia.org>

Sent: Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 15:11:40 GMT+5:30

Subject: Thank you, and following up on yesterday’s meeting on organic food regulation

 

To:

 

Shri Pawan Kumar Agarwal,

Chief Executive Officer,

Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI),

New Delhi.

 

 

 

Dear Shri Pawan Kumar Agarwal,

Greetings! Thank you for the meeting yesterday in FSSAI with regard to re-visiting the notified regulations on organic foods. The mutually-shared objective of evolving a regulatory regime that does not burden or inconvenience or exclude genuine organic farmers, while ensuring that consumers do not get cheated with wrong claims of organic, was clear and we are thankful to FSSAI for being open to various suggestions for evolving such a regime.

 

As agreed upon in the meeting, a one-size-fits-all approach to regulation will not work, and we need to engage in an exercise wherein it is assessed whether problems related to different kinds of uncertified organic farmers (individuals, ones who are collectivised, default organic etc.) will get resolved by the basket of measures being proposed. For instance, in ASHA, we have been concerned about those individual organic farmers including ‘default organic farmers’ who have no one to facilitate their collectivisation, or inclusion into one certification regime or the other, while solutions are being explored for those who are already being supported by some external entity or the other. The important part is to be inclusive, and ensure that all genuine organic farmers find a solution, without being excluded from the market place or disadvantaged for no fault of theirs.

 

The points that emerged from the discussions yesterday as per our notes include:

 

1. Removing any caps/ceiling related to annual turnover when it comes to direct sales by producers and producer organisations. This is logical since no other quality assurance is required when the consumer knows the producer, and this is in compliance with Sec. 18(3) of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.

 

2. Formally exempting aggregator-primary processor-retailer who procures (raw or primary-processed produce) directly from individual organic farmers or organic farmers’ collectives or farmer producer organisations including non-registered entities, and does primary processing/packing and sells to end consumers. We believe that this is as good as direct sales, with a very very short supply chain that is fully traceable and does not require any ceiling or cap to be imposed and needs to be exempted.

 

3. Finalising the principles or systems that should govern the frameworks of quality assurance, with our inputs on the same, for Regulation 4 (1) (iii) to be put into implementation. Such systems should have solutions for the current problems being faced when it comes to the two other notified systems, and therefore, we request that the proposal that is being discussed within the Expert Committee’s Working Group be kept on hold until we come up with our inputs, which we will do soon.

 

4. Look into the examples from other countries like Canada where federal regulation with mandatory certification is applied only to inter-provincial trade and official logo-carrying products. This will then also support and keep alive localised trade with shorter food miles, if those products within a state (intra-state trade) and those that do not carry Jaivik Bharat logo are kept out of the purview of mandatory certification requirements. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/general-food-requirements-and-guidance/organic-products/regulating/eng/1328082717777/1328082783032 has information on Canada Organic Regime – kindly look into the very last part of this page, wherein it is stated that The Canada Organic Regime does not apply to organic products that are only sold within a province or territory and do not display the Canada organic logo. For these products, the CFIA would verify on complaint that organic claims are truthful and not misleading”.

 

5. FSSAI using its good offices to reach out, at the highest level, to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) to work out improvements in PGS India as well as actualise proposals for creating and supporting alternative and additional certification regimes, anchored with the MoA&FW to suit the requirements of various kinds of organic farmers in the country. As promised, we are attaching to this letter our submission to the NCOF on such diverse regimes to be supported.

 

We also have issues of concern to raise with the NPOP regime when it comes to its application for domestic markets. A note on this will be shared with you soon, to be raised with the Ministry of Commerce and we request your cooperation for the same.

 

Apart from the above, the following were agreed upon:

 

* Defer implementation of the regulations and keep the notification in abeyance, until pending issues are resolved so that lakhs of uncertified organic farmers and their marketing prospects/livelihoods are not adversely affected.

 

* Include more farmer/civil society representatives in the Expert Committee, given the numerous pending issues on this front. We have a few names to suggest for your consideration and will be sending these details in a separate mail.

 

 

While we did discuss about an advisory to State level FSS officials with regard to the organic food regulations so that over-zealous implementation does not take place, wherein we promised to share a draft articulation from our side for such an advisory, we find that clear deferment of the notified regulation (and not an advisory around implementation) is the need of the hour, so that implementation level officials do not use any discretion at their end. Therefore, we are abstaining from sharing any draft articulation on such an advisory and we request you to act immediately to issue an order that defers implementation of the notified regulation unambiguously.

 

 

Finally, in a de-briefing meeting within ourselves, we found that the important aspect of FSSAI staying in compliance with Sec. 18 (3) of the Act did not get discussed adequately and request that FSSAI seriously look into this aspect, given that our proposal was within this framework of the Act – that of FSSAI using a regulatory framework of permissible residue limits for inadvertent contamination + traceability from retailer to farmer (both these mechanisms together). This was not deliberated upon adequately and we are willing to provide any clarifications that you seek on this. 

 

 

We urge you to carry the same spirit that made you come up with the regulation of organic foods (because it was mandated in the Act, under Sec.22), to the fact that farmers have to be excluded from the purview of the Act (as under Sec. 18 (3)), and we are confident that you will.

 

Sincerely,

Sd/-

 

Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA

Rajinder Chaudhary, Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan

Kapil Shah, Jatan

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Thanal

Akash Badave, Bhoomgadi FPO

Arun Ambatipudi, Chetna Organic

Radhika Rammohan, reStore / Organic Farmers Market