Why does group certification matter?

Individual organic certification for smallholders is burdensome and costly

In order to successfully participate in organic export markets, administrative and documentation requirements can be overwhelming. To prepare for the certification against public or private standards, documents such as business descriptions, farm and site plans, field charts, supplier and customer lists have to be prepared, comprehensive questionnaires need to be filled in, measures to comply with the organic legislation have to be worked out and documented meticulously. All this requires a certain educational level and costs time and money. On top of this, there are the costs for the actual organic certification by a third-party certification body including travel expenses, which are usually much too high for single smallholders to afford.

Group certification is one of the most powerful market access tools for small-scale farmers

Group certification implies that a group of farmers joins forces to obtain one certificate for the entire group, instead of each farmstead applying for individual certification. In this case, the external certifier only has to inspect a small percentage of the farms as spot checks on a yearly basis. Most importantly, he must validate the group’s documented quality assurance system, the so-called internal control system (ICS). This way, he delegates the periodic inspection of all group members to internal inspectors of the group. Those internal inspectors are not only responsible for the documentation of the group’s compliance, but also advise the management regarding sanctioning and removing non-compliant group members.

For businesses sourcing from smallholders, group certification is a cost-effective way to ensure compliance

Through group certification, businesses who source from small-scale farmers and sell to national and international markets can proof their suppliers' compliance with public and private standards in a cost-effective way. At the same time, the concept helps these businesses to ensure that their smallholders abide to the contract terms, since a group certificate is only valid for the group as a whole; individual group members cannot use it independently.

About Organic Services

Organic Services is an international strategy and management consultancy, specialising in the organic and sustainability sector. We focus on integrity solutions to combat fraud and misuse of quality claims. We draw on 30 years of experience and a global network on all continents. Our services for private companies and public institutions enhance sustainability, integrity and business success throughout the organic and sustainability sector. Our mission: more sustainability and transparency throughout the (food) supply chain. Following an interdisciplinary approach, we offer strategy and business development, market research, trade support, project, and event management. Visit the Organic Services website...

Our Integrity Toolset

Integrity toolset by Organic Services: Check Organic, Group Integrity and Ecert Basic (BIOFACH 2020)

Integrity toolset by Organic Services: Check Organic, Group Integrity and Ecert Basic (BIOFACH 2020)

The tools Ecert Basic and Group Integrity facilitate the audit and certification management of grower groups and small, local certification bodies, making their surveillance systems more robust, transparent, efficient and competitive. Our non-analytic mass balance approach, Check Organic, reveals food fraud even before the product is sold on the market. The combination of the three systems Check Organic, Group Integrity and Ecert Basic considerably facilitates the collaboration between supply chain actors (for example between a farmer group and their external certification body). This creates synergies that can benefit the industry as a whole.


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