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American Shipper

U.S., Canada boost organic produce trade

U.S., Canada boost organic produce trade

   The United States and Canada have reached a first-of-its-kind agreement to expand trade opportunities between organic producers and consumers in both countries.

   The so-called 'equivalency agreement' follows a review by both countries of their organic certification programs and determination that products meeting the standard in the United States can be sold as organic in Canada, and vice versa.

   'The production of organic foods is a vibrant growth opportunity for American agriculture, and by agreeing on a common set of organic principles with Canada, we are expanding market opportunities for our producers to sell their products abroad,' said U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in a statement to the All Things Organic Trade Show and Conference in Chicago on Wednesday.

   'Today's agreement between the world's two largest organic trading partners is an important first step towards global harmonization of organic standards,' she said.

   Under a determination of equivalence, producers and processors that are certified to the National Organic Program standards by a U.S. Department of Agriculture accredited certifying agent do not have to become certified to the Canada Organic Product Regulation standards in order for their products to be represented organic in Canada.

   Similarly, Canadian organic products certified to Canada Organic Product Regulation standards may be sold or labeled in the United States as organically produced. Both the USDA Organic seal and the Canada Organic Biologique logo may be used on certified products from both countries.

   Canada is the largest U.S. trade partner and largest estimated export market for U.S. organic products. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service office in Ottawa estimates that more than 80 percent of Canada's organic consumption comes from imports, and about 75 percent of those imports come from the United States. Organic produce and processed foods are estimated to make up the majority of U.S. organic product exported to Canada, the USDA said.

   'Estimates of the total market for organic products in Canada range from $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion; meanwhile, sales of organic products in the United States totaled $24.6 billion in 2008,' the USDA said. 'Actual trade flows are difficult to track because the United States has not developed international harmonized system codes for organic products.'

   The USDA also noted that since the late 1990s, U.S. organic production has more than doubled, but the consumer market has grown even faster. Organic food sales have more than quintupled, increasing from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $24.6 billion in 2008. More than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly, according to the Organic Trade Association. ' Chris Gillis

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