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Canadian organic sector celebrates trade deal with Europe

by press release | July 06, 2011

OTTAWA -- Canada and the European Union have reached a historic agreement to recognize each other's organic standards and laws after nearly four years of formal negotiation.

This is the world's second such agreement. In June 2009, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture signed the very first "organic equivalency arrangement," which opened the significant U.S. organic market to Canadian exports. The global organic trade is estimated to be over $55 billion per year; 96 percent of this is represented by the U.S. and EU markets. Canada is now the only country in the world able to deal directly with these two key markets through its domestic standards.

"This is an absolute game-changer for Canadian farmers and food manufacturers," Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association and an organic sector advisor to the government of Canada on international trade and market access, said in a July 5 press release. "With full access to European markets, suppliers and ingredients, Canada's organic sector now has a strategic edge. This agreement will increase trade and boost Canada's organic sector from the farm to the consumer."

The Canada Organic Trade Association calculates that the Canadian organic market has grown from $2 billion in 2008 to over $2.6 billion in 2010. Each year Canadian companies export over $390 million worth of organic commodities, ingredients and products to the United States, the European Union and other parts of the world. Since 2008, the organic association has coordinated a long-term international strategy for the organic sector. Roughly $500,000 in cumulative matching funds, contributed through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's AgriMarketing Program, support Canadian companies that are branding and marketing their organic products around the world.

"This recognition of Canada's organic standards by both the EU and U.S. shows that Canada's organic standards are among the best in the world," Mr. Holmes said in the release. "This agreement also means consumers at home will know that strong organic standards have been followed in order to enter our country, while eliminating the burdensome costs of multiple organic certifications now carried by farmers, processors and traders."

In 2009, Canada implemented the Organic Products Regulations, which made Canada's organic standards mandatory for domestic and imported products. Under the regulations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversees and enforces the organic certification system as well as organic claims in the marketplace. The new "Canada Organic" logo allows consumers to identify products that meet Canada's new organic requirements.