Organically equal: Taiwan reaches first equivalency status agreements with Australia and Japan – FoodNavigator-Asia.com

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Organic equivalency arrangements are basically a form of trade agreement between countries which allows for the different organic standards from each country to be treated equally. Imported products would need to go through a conformity assessment system in line with the equivalency arrangement’s terms.

Taiwan’s organic equivalency arrangement with Japan came into effect on February 1 this year. The agreement, as published by the Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) of Taiwan, was signed by the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association Chairperson Chiou I-Jen and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairperson Ohashi Mitsuo.

“Certified products under the Organic Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) system attached with the [relevant] certification may be imported into Taiwan and sold in Taiwan as organic, [and the same will apply to] products certified under the Taiwanese organic agricultural product system [to be] imported in Japan and sold in Japan as organic,”​ said Chiou and Ohashi.

According to the official procedural document, this agreement will be limited to organic agricultural plant products ‘produced and processed in Japan under the organic JAS system’ ​or ‘produced and processed in Taiwan under the Taiwan organic certification system’.

“[For both countries], this will not cover in-conversion products (from producers in the second year of converting to organic or not fully organic yet), alcoholic beverages or seeds and seedlings,”​ stated the document.

Organic Japanese products to be imported and sold in Taiwan will be allowed to display the organic JAS logo, but not the Taiwan organic mark as only ‘made in Taiwan’ products are allowed to carry the latter.

“[Importers must still] apply to Taiwan’s Central Competent Authority (The Council of Agriculture, COA) to import organic products from Japan to Taiwan under the equivalency,”​ stated the final procedure document.

‘They will need to be reviewed, obtain an approval document and indicate the number of this on the products that are to be sold as organic in Taiwan.”

Conversely, it is necessary for organic Taiwanese products to be sold in Japan to carry the organic JAS logo, as Japanese regulations require that all products to be sold as ‘organic’ in the country must have this affixed.

‘[This] should be done by a JAS organic certified importer, so if [an operator who is only] Taiwanese certified organic wants to affix this logo, it must contract with such an importer,”​ said the agreement.

These products will also need to have the Taiwan organic mark displayed.

Taiwan and Australia’s organic equivalency

The organic equivalency agreement between Taiwan and Australia came into effect even earlier than that with Japan on January 23 2020, but no additional procedural document has been issued by the AFA.

That said, within the agreement itself as signed by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Australia and the Australian Office (AO) in Taipei, the criteria here appears to be somewhat less stringent than the arrangement between Taiwan and Japan.

“This arrangement covers organic products that are produced, and made in, the jurisdictions of [Australia and Taiwan], including crops, livestock, aquatic plants, and processed foods with the exception of bee products,”​ said TECO representative Charng Yii-Lih and AO representative Gary Cowan.

“The Competent Authorities will [recognise] the document under the Official Organic Assurance as a valid attestation such that additional certification of the organic nature of [organic] products from Taiwan to Australia will not be required, [and vice versa] for products from Australia to Taiwan.”

Cowan also stated on his Twitter page that Australia was ‘thrilled to be the first’​ to bring such an agreement into effect.

“This ensures Australia’s clean, green, premium product will continue to reach Taiwanese consumers when Taiwan’s new organics legislation comes into effect in May,”​ he said.

Cowan was referring to the deadline set by the Taiwan Organic Agriculture Promotion Act which requires all exporting countries to have signed a bilateral agreement with Taiwan that recognizes its organic produce for import into their own market, or else certify their products to Taiwanese standards.

The act took effect on May 30 2019, and all countries were given a one-year grace period to make the transition.

The AFA stated that ongoing talks for bilateral organic arrangements were also ongoing with other countries such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and India, and are ‘indicative of Taiwan’s determination to promote organic agriculture and grow relevant industries through expanding its export reach.’