Get Organically Certified in Four Easy Steps
Getting your products organically certified can boost consumer trust and open up new trading opportunities – and it’s easier than you may think.
If you want to be taken seriously in the organic products sector, having the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) seal of approval is essential. It allows you to use the organisation’s BUD logo, which is the most widely recognised certification logo in any food category and instantly conveys the integrity of your products, says ACO general manager, Sachin Ayachit. Here, we chat to him about what to expect from the certification process and how to get organically certified.
What are the key reasons a manufacturer should seek organic certification?
One of the most important reasons is market access: we export a huge amount of organically certified products into the international market, and there are destinations, including the US and Europe, where it’s a requirement to have third-party certification. Also, consumers are becoming more conscious about independent certification for claims such as organic – we get many phone calls from consumers checking whether particular operators are certified with us.
What’s the first step to kicking off the certification process?
First and foremost is the application and filling out an organic management plan, which outlines each and every aspect of the management of the farm or processing facility, in compliance with specific sections of the Standard. The second step is the preliminary assessment process, where our technical officers check that the organic management plan is in compliance with the relevant Standard.
Once the preliminary assessment is completed, what happens next?
The third step to getting organically certified is an on-site, in-person appointment with an auditor, who will verify the management practices and records as sent to the certification office earlier are in compliance with the Standard. For example, if it’s a farm or orchard, there’s a comprehensive process starting with a field visit, going through records of the previous 36 months of input use, plus examination of spray diaries, invoices, production details, use of any pesticides or fertilisers and any risk boundaries. If it’s a processing facility, the auditor will check things like pest controls, segregation of organic products from conventional ones, labelling and tallying incoming and outgoing certified organic product, to mitigate any risk of fraudulent use of non-certified ingredients.
What happens after the audit?
The fourth step to certification involves the audit report being sent to the office, where the technical officer goes through it and issues any non-compliances. Once the operator addresses these and puts correct systems in place, the Organic Certificate is issued and the operator is entitled to use the BUD logo.
How long does certification typically take, and what fees are involved?
From the application to issuing the certificate – if there are no non-compliances and the operator isn’t based in a regional area – between four to six weeks. Producers need to demonstrate 36 months of compliance in total, but you can reduce that to 12 months if you can demonstrate the previous 24 months by paper trail, then 12 months after the first audit. If it’s a simple operation, you’re looking at about $1500 to $2000 for certification, which includes the application fee, audit, plus any soil or tissue test costs.
Any tips for making the whole process hassle-free?
Operators can ask us for a copy of the checklist we’re going to use, which will give them an idea of the flow of the audit. The most important document is your own organic management plan, because what we’re checking at the audit is whether you’re following it. We will be at the Naturally Good Expo, and will have technical officers, market access specialists and certification specialists there to answer any questions.