• Importing organic coffee into the United States


    Prior to 2002 private and state agencies certified organic practices and national certification requirements did not exist. As a result there were no guarantees that 'organic' meant the same thing from state to state, or even locally from certifier to certifier. Consumers and producers of organic products therefore jointly sought to establish national standards to clear up confusion in the marketplace, and to protect the trade against mislabelling or fraud.

    As required by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), the National Organic Standards (part of the National Organic Program, NOP) became effective on 21 October 2002. OFPA itself was adopted in 1990 to establish national standards for the production and handling of foods labelled as 'organic'.

    Today organizations that are fully NOP-compliant (certified) may label their products or ingredients as organic, and may use the 'USDA Organic Seal' on organic products in the United States, irrespective of whether they are produced domestically or are imported. As a result of NOP there is therefore a single national label in the United States to designate organic products, thereby avoiding the label confusion that exists in Europe. A list of accredited certifying agents can be found on the USDA (NOP) website www.ams.usda.gov/nop and on www.ioia.net - Independent Organic Inspectors Association.

    Like the European Union the US also requires a control or transaction/export certificate for each shipment, showing date, weight/quantity, and origin. However, unlike to EU, NOP does not require the 'master certificate' for the processing unit referred to in 03.02.08.

    The North American market for organic coffee is served mainly by importers who handle conventional products as well, although some specialize in organics entirely. As with the trade in specialty coffee generally, it is often difficult to convince an importer to take a container load of an unknown coffee and the introduction of new coffees can therefore be a lengthy and tedious process. However, the US market is showing attractive growth and offers good potential - see 03.02.11.

    Information on trade in organic products can also be found at www.ota.com, the website of the Organic Trade Association - look for about/sectorcouncils/coffee/index.html.

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