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International trade in organics

As with any food, organic produce is often sourced from other regions or countries, and may come from outside the EU altogether. While organic farmers and processors generally prefer to sell their products as nearby as possible, some products simply cannot be produced everywhere because of climate or geography.

Typical organic products imported into the EU include:

  • coffee from Brazil
  • kiwi fruit from New Zealand
  • rice from Thailand
  • bananas from Costa Rica
  • cocoa from Peru
  • pineapples from Uganda

As demand for organic products in the EU currently outstrips supply, customers in the EU need to be able to buy organic food and drink from further afield.

Regulation of organic imports

The EU regulates both organic food and drink produced and/or processed within the EU and organic goods from elsewhere (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 with detailed rules concerning import of organic products from third countries). These can readily be imported from non-EU countries whose rules on organic production and control are equivalent to the EU's - currently Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Tunisia, Switzerland and the USA.

For all other non-EU countries, importers can have their organic products certified for import into the EU by independent private control bodies approved by the European Commission.

In some cases individual EU countries may allow importers to import certain organic products if they can prove that these meet EU or equivalent requirements and have been inspected accordingly (up to 30 June 2014 only). These products must be accompanied by an import certificate, which is checked upon entry into the EU.

This means you can buy organic products from outside the EU, safe in the knowledge that producers have had to pass inspections throughout the production process.

Essentially, EU regulations give consumers the confidence that when they buy organic products equivalent rules have been applied at every stage of the supply chain, wherever the products may come from.

If you are an operator looking to trade with the EU, you will find detailed information in How to import organic products into the European Union.

Exports of EU organic products

The EU produces some of the world’s most sought-after delicacies. As these products are increasingly made from organic ingredients, the EU seeks to ensure that exporters can access foreign markets without encountering barriers to trade.

International trade in organic goods not only allows people in the EU to enjoy exotic new products from outside the EU but also enables EU organic products to be appreciated and recognised around the world. The EU has secured recognition of EU organic rules in several important export markets including Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Canada and the USA. Having EU organic products recognised in non-EU markets is a key priority for the future.