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New Report: Best Practices for Organic Policy

The report "Best Practices for Organic Policy. What developing country Governments can do to promote the organic agriculture sector" was prepared under the project "Promoting Production and Trading Opportunities for Organic Agricultural Products in East Africa", project of the UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development (CBTF).

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The goal of the report "Best Practices for Organic Policy. What developing country Governments can do to promote the organic agriculture sector" is to give guidance to the development of appropriate policies for the organic sector. Its focus is mainly developing countries, particularly in East Africa, but much of it is also applicable for developed countries. The report gives some general background about organic agriculture and the reasons to support the development of organic agriculture.

These are among others:

  • Protection of natural resources (e.g. water) and biodiversity;
  • Improved quality of soils and thereby a long-term high productivity;
  • Improved market access;
  • Improved profitability in farming; and
  • Improved health or reduced health risks for farmers, farm-workers and consumers.

The report relates experiences from the cases of seven countries: Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa, as well as from other parts of the world. It shows that organic agriculture is developing strongly in all the seven countries, despite quite different conditions and very different levels and kinds of government involvement. Most organic production is for export purposes but countries like Egypt, Malaysia and South Africa have developed substantial domestic markets. Malaysia is even a net importer of organic food.

In almost all countries with an organic sector, the early drivers are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector; Governments have rarely played any role in the early stages. Countries with a unified organic movement develop the sector quicker. Those factors should be considered
when Governments start to engage in the sector and Governments are advised to work in close cooperation with the stakeholders and their organization when developing organic policies.

Any organic policy and action plans should be linked to the overarching objectives of the country’s agriculture policies in order to make them mutually supportive. The contribution of organic agriculture to these objectives needs to be highlighted. Similarly, the current policies should be assessed to understand their impact on organic agriculture ideally leading to that all obstacles and
biases against organic agriculture be removed.

A starting point for government engagement is to give recognition and encouragement to the organic sector. This also includes the recognition of the relevance of organic sector organizations and the close cooperation between them and Governments. Governments should take an enabling and facilitating role rather than a controlling one. In particular, Governments should not embark on premature domestic organic market regulations which may stifle the development instead of stimulating it.

A policy process needs to be participatory and be based on clear objectives. Action plans, programmes and projects should develop from the overall policy.

Critical for the development is that bottlenecks be identified and that all the various aspects of development – production, marketing, supply chain, training, research etc. – are considered. Training both civil servants and private sector
actors should have high priority. Most developing countries have limited resources and have to balance their resources against the needs. Therefore, priorities are called for. The adaptation of policy measures to the conditions in the country and the stage of development and the proper sequencing of measures are vital for a successful development of organic agriculture.

The report gives a number of recommendations, listed below, divided in recommendations for:

  • General Policy;
  • Standards and regulation;
  • Markets;
  • Production; and
  • Other, including training, education and research.

In addition to the highlighted recommendations, there are many other recommendations given in the report.

Source: Executive summary of "Best Practices for Organic Policy. What developing country Governments can do to promote the organic agriculture sector"

Further information

Quote

UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development (CBTF) (2008) Best Practices for Organic Policy. What developing country Governments can do to promote the organic agriculture sector. Prepared under the CBTF Project “Promoting Production and Trading Opportunities for Organic Agricultural Products in East Africa”. United Nations New York and Geneva, 2008, Available at http://www.unep.ch/etb/publications/UNCTAD_DITC_TED_2007_3.pdf

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