Local standard for organic food in works

Local standard for organic food in works
Quan Fa Organic Farm, which is run by Mr Liow Jun Jie's family, is being certified by the Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand, but Mr Liow says local accreditation would give better assurance to consumers.

Consumers may soon get to buy organic vegetables with a local stamp of approval.

A unit under the Singapore Manufacturing Federation is developing a new standard for organic produce, The Straits Times has learnt.

"Organic certification may build upon this new standard," said its spokesman in response to queries.

But as discussions with stakeholders are still at a preliminary stage, the federation's Standards Development Organisation is unable to disclose further information, she added.

Currently, Singapore farmers who want to label and sell their produce as organic must obtain certification from an organic certification body overseas. There are at least 200 of them from more than 80 countries, and each sets its own standards.

There is no widely recognised official organic food standard in Singapore, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it does not have a definition or specification standard for organic produce.

So if local organic certification comes to fruition, it could boost the branding of local crops and help consumers better identify organic produce, farmers and marketing experts say.

Organic-certified food can cost up to three times as much as that produced by conventional methods, said Dr Guan Chong of SIM University's school of business. "Certification helps consumers recognise organic products in the market and provides assurance on the claims related to organic farming," she said.

"Without certification, consumers are less likely to trust marketeers' claims."

Farmer Liao Jun Jie, 26, from the family-run Quan Fa Organic Farm in Kranji, believes organic certification is good for the branding of local produce.

There is demand for organic-certified products these days, he said, especially among younger consumers. "But there are many products in the market that claim to be organic although they may not follow organic farming standards," he added.

Aside from not using synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers, organic farming has other requirements, such as crop rotation.

This means a crop cannot be grown on the same patch of land, as this affects nutrient levels in the soil.

Quan Fa has applied for organic certification from the Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand, which the farm will receive by the end of next month, but Mr Liao said local accreditation would better assure consumers.

Personal assistant Jileen Tan, 51, who occasionally buys organic produce, said a Singapore certification would be reliable.

"So far, Singapore has been stringent with quality control. So I would trust it more," she said.

audreyt@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 26, 2015.
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