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by Mari Amano
Participants, Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you to the APO NationalWorkshop on Organic Certification.
I am pleased to note that approximately 50 qualified participants from relevant organizations are here to attend this workshop. It shows your commitment to and awareness of the importance of organic certification.
As you know, the global market for certified organic agrifood products is expanding fast, resulting in greater opportunities for Asian producers. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the authenticity of the organic products they buy. Therefore, producers need a way of assuring the public that a product has been grown using organic methods. Certification helps protect both consumers and genuine organic producers from false claims and misleading labeling of products. Today’s market demands third-party certification for sales transactions, and it is required by the regulations of many governments for any “organic” claim on a product label.
In response, developing Asian countries are putting in place sound regulations, standards, and third-party certification systems. As you know better than I, Bangladesh has huge potential for expanding organic farming. The main constraints on that expansion, however, are insufficient national organic regulations and standards and inadequate expertise in organic certification. Other impediments are a lack of awareness of the benefits of organic farming, insufficient policy incentives for organic producers, and a strong lobby promoting the use of agrochemical inputs.
Since numerous organic standards have proliferated worldwide led by public and private initiatives, certification must meet the requirements of internationally accepted ones such as the Asia Regional Organic Standard and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements Standard. There is an urgent need to train a critical mass of relevant government officers and private-sector managers in organic certification to strengthen the national organic certification system.
The APO believes that it is very important to promote Green Productivity in all sectors of member economies, and agriculture is no exception. Organic farming can be an effective tool for promoting sustainability in agriculture in developing member countries where small farmers constitute the majority of the agricultural community. Organic farming conserves natural resources, reduces environmental pollution, increases farm income, and produces food free of chemical residues. It is also an important source of foreign earnings for organic farmers who export to developed markets like Japan, the EU, and USA. In view of the multiple benefits of organic agriculture, the APO organizes multicountry workshops and training courses on this subject in different member countries on a regular basis. It also published an e-book titled Organic Agriculture and Agribusiness: Innovation and Fundamentals in 2010, which is available for downloading free of charge on the APO website. The Training Course on Organic Product Certification and Auditing held in Sri Lanka in 2012 was attended by 23 participants from 10 member countries, including three from Bangladesh. This national workshop is a follow-up to the 2012 course.
This workshop aims to strengthen the performance of third-party certification of organic products in Bangladesh by expanding the pool of qualified inspectors. I hope that you will all share your learning experience on organic certification to achieve multiplier effects.
Before closing, I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of the Bangladesh, in particular the National Productivity Organization and the APO Society for Bangladesh, for implementing this workshop. I would also like to thank the resource persons for sharing their valuable knowledge and experience with the participants.
In conclusion, I hope that you all find this a productive workshop.