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Stakeholders’ views on improving the organic certification system: Results from an EU level workshop

Miran, Bülent; Uysal Karahan, Özlem; Abay, Canan and Boyacı, Murat (editor): Ege University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics, 35100 Ýzmir, Turkey (Ed.) (2009) Stakeholders’ views on improving the organic certification system: Results from an EU level workshop. Ege University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics, Ýzmir, Turkey.

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Summary

The FP7 CERTCOST project has the overall objective to give recommendations to the public authorities and private actors in the whole organic certification chain on how to improve the organic food certification systems in terms of efficiency, transparency and cost effectiveness. According to the project description (the Description of Work, or DoW) this will be done based on a scientific economic in depth analysis of the certification systems from the farmer to the consumer in 5 EU countries (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom), plus Switzerland and the candidate country, Turkey. To safeguard that the CERTCOST objectives, work plan and methodology is in line with the expectations of key stakeholders from all levels of the certification chain the DoW foresaw a Stakeholder workshop to be organised in the beginning of the project.
The current report documents the main points of the discussions and recommendation given by the stakeholders at this CERTCOST Stakeholder workshop, which took place on November, 13-15, 2008 in Izmir, Turkey, 2.5 months after the project had started.
A total of 20 stakeholders were invited, of whom 16 could participate in the workshop. The participant profile included both users and providers of the certification system at different levels such as representatives of farmers’ organizations certification/control bodies, government authorities, EU Commission, processors/ traders, private experts/consultants. Together with the representatives of the partner institutions in the CERTCOST project, the total number of workshop participants was 35 representing 12 European countries.
Given the diverse backgrounds of the workshop participants, a working group approach (World Café approach) was applied in order to give the participants the opportunity to reflect their experiences and ideas on the implementation of the project in a synergetic, comfortable and free environment.
After a brief presentation of the project, outlining the tasks of the work packages and describing the proposed links between the project and the stakeholders by the project coordinator, the stakeholders were divided into four groups according to their level in the organic certification chain, as farmers, processors/traders, certification bodies and consumers. Two working group sessions were carried out around the questions provided to the stakeholders before the workshop through electronic mails. The questions had been compiled based on input from the managers of the four work packages which were relevant to the workshop discussion. After the first working group session, a plenary discussion session for clustering of the output given by the working groups, their validation and assessment was carried out. In the second session of the working groups, it was rather aimed to harmonize the understanding between the diversified opinions mentioned in Session 1.
The working group approach concluded in a final plenary discussion. On the second day, the CERTCOST work package managers presented how the discussions, comments and inputs of the working group sessions could impact on their working plans. In the final session the stakeholders were addressed directly for providing further ideas both on the project and on future collaboration options.
The workshop was strongly focused on the identification of key characteristics of cost factors along the supply chain in relation to their impact on the quality of the given service. However a broad range of related subjects were discussed.
The Stakeholder workshop put forward that, the ‘cost’ was among the most important topics relating to the certification system performance. The focus of the project aiming at cost effectiveness and not cost minimization was confirmed by the stakeholders. All of the stakeholders present in the workshop demonstrated elevated levels of interest on several outputs of the project. The workshop revealed very positive expectations among the stakeholders towards the risk based approach to be followed in the CERTCOST project. The detailed picture of the organic certification sector obtained through the workshop will constitute an important input to the CERTCOST project and the workshop is considered to be a successful first step in the project-stakeholder interaction.
The Stakeholder workshop provided important insight into the many discussion subjects of the organic certification systems in the EU and worldwide, among others the following should be mentioned. Farmers expect to have, clear rules, fair implementation, and high skilled guidance in the inspection and certification process, and underline the need for training of farmers and certifiers and for better communication between all parties in the certification chain. Processors point out the need for a good relationship with the inspectors and certifiers as well as the fact that there existed different schemes in different countries regarding the inspection process and the related cost structure. They also highlighted the difficulty of managing the relations with increasing number of different standards and different certification bodies. It is agreed that consumers expect something they can trust and they can easily recognize, a label, a logo, a certifier, a brand, a farmer or the word ‘organic’; at local, regional, national, or EU-level. It is also concluded that whether, why and how much some consumers might be willing to pay more for particular logos was unknown and was needed to be investigated.
Authorities/certification bodies stress that the issue of knowledge and education is extremely important and that there are complex legislations, no common standards, and differences within and between countries. They underline that there are different catalogues in different countries to deal with irregularities which should be harmonized. They emphasize that a clear definition of certification should be made covering its objectives, principles and tools.
While on some of the issues there has been a highlighted consensus among the groups, on some others contrasting ideas became evident. Among those subjects of absolute agreement were the importance of and the need for a more clear understanding of the certification system, its components and rules by all the parties involved. Education and elevated levels of necessary skills from farmer to inspector and to consumer; increased transparency and information exchange, well defined relationships between parties were considered to be an indispensable basis for a well functioning and more efficient certification system. The inspection concept came into prominence, with a discussion on policing vs. development approaches. While an efficient and comparable control system was judged to be crucial, promising private governmental formulations were agreed to be based on country conditions. Complexity of the legislation and lack of transparency were the remarkable barriers to a more efficient control system.
The EU logo and the new EU Regulation for organic certification were also discussed among stakeholders. It was suggested that the EU logo might have the potential to boost demand in the ‘less developed’ organic markets, but more promotion then currently planned would be needed. It was agreed that most consumers do not look for logos of particular standards but for the word ‘organic’ and/or an organic logo they are familiar with. This might be different for ‘committed’ organic consumers in more mature markets. Overall, it was agreed that ‘trust’ is the most crucial aspect of organic certification regarding the consumer side.
The issue of multiple certification and standards appeared to be a factor deserving more attention in the certification world. Harmonization in certification of the same characteristic of a product was deemed necessary. On the other hand, exchange of experiences and cooperation with markets like ‘Fair Trade’ was agreed to be potentially beneficial.


EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Organic certification, economic analysis, stakeholder integration
Subjects: Values, standards and certification
Research affiliation: European Union > CertCost
Deposited By: Miran, Bülent
ID Code:16048
Deposited On:20 Nov 2011 09:17
Last Modified:20 Nov 2011 09:17
Document Language:English
Status:Submitted
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed
Additional Publishing Information:This publication was generated as part of the CERTCOST project, agreement no. 207727 (http://www.certcost.org), with financial support from the European Community under the 7th Framework Programme. The publication reflects the views of the author(s) and not those of the European Community, who is not to be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained.
The document represents Deliverable 2 of the aforementioned project.

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