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Affordable organic certification bill elevated to Senate plenary

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SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar has presented to the plenary a bill establishing a more affordable system for certifying organic products.

Senate Bill No. 2203 amends Republic Act No. 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 to introduce the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) in which associations and groups involved in the organic agriculture sector conduct the certification process themselves.

At present, the law only allows the certification of organic farms of small farmers by third-party certifiers to facilitate the labeling and marketing of products to markets.

The present system has been deemed costly among farmers who have to pay P42,000 to P150,000 per crop in order to be certified, according to Ms. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food.

“Ironically, this certification requires big financial capital which is not affordable for small famers. Aside from the fees for certification, it requires a significant financial outlay for establishing the required facilities, maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in the farm, and keeping an updated record of farm activities,” she said in her sponsorship speech.

“Hence, more farmers are not able to have their farms and products certified, which puts them at a disadvantage with conventional food products because of the lack of the organic label,” she added.

Under the proposed measure, a group under the PGS requires at least five members practicing organic agriculture and coming from various farms in the locality. The group must be registered with the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS).

When conducting the certification process, the bill requires the PGS group to adhere to the Philippine National Standards for organic agriculture and to the standards provided by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM).

Ms. Villar said that the PGS will only cost farmers P600 to P2,000.

Associations and groups under the PGS can be created in the municipality or city level, provincial level, and national level. Products certified by these groups can be traded only on the domestic market.

The bill also gives an incentive to organic agriculture producers who have been certified by PGS to be compliant with the standards for five years. He or she will be eligible to be given a full subsidy for the cost of an international certification accreditation.

The measure also increases private-sector participation in the National Organic Agricultural Board (NOAB) by including two representatives nominated by the associations and groups under PGS. The NOAB is the policy-making body under the Department of Agriculture (DA) tasked to implement the National Organic Agricultural Program.

“Providing a low-cost and efficient alternative to third-party certification is seen as a solution to boost the participation of small farmers and the development of organic agriculture in the Philippines,” Ms. Villar said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo