Agriculture and rural development

European Commission and Colombia to start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products

European Commission and Colombia to start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products

European Commission and Colombia to start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products

The Government of Colombia and the European Commission announced today the start of negotiations towards a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products between the European Union and Colombia.

Both sides confirmed their interest to swiftly conclude, at the end of the negotiations, an agreement that would allow a larger market for organic farmers, reduced burden for companies and more organic products available to consumers. Although not part of the Trade Agreement in force since 2013 between the EU and Colombia and Peru, this new agreement will be earmarked in the privileged relationship of cooperation and trade facilitation that has been established since then.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan is visiting Colombia from 7 to 9 February 2016, accompanied by a delegation of 35 European businesses representing a wide range of the European Union's agri-food sector.

In the framework of Commissioner's Hogan visit, a high level event on organics took place at Bogota today. Long established and recognised EU organic companies were able to provide the participants with their global vision on organic production and marketing of organic products and to exchange views on the development of the sector in Colombia.

Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development of Colombia Aurelio Iragorri Valencia and EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan met earlier today in Bogota.

Both the European Union and Colombia are currently examining each other's organic legislation. The agreement on trade in organic products between the EU and Colombia will be based on the mutual recognition of each other's production rules and controls system as equivalent. It will reduce administrative burden for producers and operators.  It will also aim at fostering technical dialogue and cooperation between the parties to the benefit of producers and consumers of organic products.

The European trade policy in organic products has significantly changed over the past years, with growing importance given to reciprocity in order to rebalance the current trade regime, levelling the playing field between the EU's and third countries' operators and ensuring consumers' confidence on the imported products.

Since 2014, the EU can only negotiate with third countries balanced agreements of equivalence recognition in organic production. It is also proposed to phase out gradually the current system of imports based on certification provided by control bodies recognised for the purpose of equivalence which will move to compliance with EU rules.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan stated: "I welcome the start of negotiations with Colombia with a view to concluding an agreement on trade in organic products. The organic sector continues to be one of the most dynamic production sectors the EU agri-food sector, and Colombia has great potential to develop opportunities for organic farmers and businesses, with the guarantee for the consumer of a solid control system. We have to be open to examine means of technical dialogue and cooperation between the EU and Colombia on matters such as organics. Today's high level event constitutes a good example of how the organic sectors of both the EU and Colombia can cooperate and both benefit in building a long-term vision".

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia Aurelio Iragorri Valencia stated: "This agreement will be an important step in strengthening our economic relationship with the European Union in one of the fastest-growing agricultural sectors. The development of organic production is very important for farmers and rural communities in Colombia as it provides, on the one hand, for a sustainable development of Colombia's rural areas and, on the other hand, it contributes to increasing welfare of the rural population by providing access to differentiated high value added markets".

He added: "We welcome the cooperation and dialogue with the European Union for the development of the organic sector in Colombia. A future agreement on trade in organic products would represent a great opportunity for farmers and businesses and contribute to world-wide recognition of Colombia's organic produce".

Organic production is an overall system of farm management and food production that combines best environmental and climate action practices, a high level of biodiversity, the preservation of natural resources and the application of high production and animal welfare standards. It plays a dual societal role, on the one hand supplying a specific market responding to a consumer demand for organic products, and on the other hand delivering public goods by contributing to the protection of the environment as well as to rural development.


European Union: Facts and Figures

The organic sector in the European Union has been rapidly developing in recent years with a total area of 10.3 million hectares cultivated as organic in 2014 compared to 6.4 million hectares in 2005. This means an average yearly growth of 5.5% over a 10-year period.

The organic area represented 5% of the total utilised agricultural area in 2009 while it grew to nearly 6% in 2014. The top 5 producing countries in 2014 were Spain (1.7 million ha), Italy (1.4 million ha), France (1.1 million ha), Germany (1 million ha) and Poland (0.7 million ha), while the 5 countries with the highest share of their total agricultural area dedicated to organic production in the same year were Austria (22%), Sweden (16.5%), Estonia (16%), Czech Republic (13.5%) and Italy (11.5%).

The EU market for organic products amounts to some 40% of the world market – second only to the USA (43%). In recent years the value of the EU market has grown by more than 6% a year with sales of organic products totalling some € 22.2 billion in 2013. In the same year, the EU countries with the most valuable organic market were Germany (€ 7.5 billion), France (€ 4.4 billion), UK and Italy (€ 2 billion each).


EU-Colombia trade in organic products

With regard to EU-Colombia trade of organic products, although no detailed information is available as to the volumes and values of trade flows of organic products, it is expected that trade in organics follows the same pattern of general agri-food trade, with EU exports strength laying in final processed products ready for consumers (wines, spirits, food preparations, baby food, olive oil).

With regard to EU imports, the main products imported from Colombia are bananas and coffee, which represent over 70% of Colombian exports to the EU. Palm oil and cane or beet sugar are other important products imported from Colombia (25%, according to data provided by equivalent control bodies).

The agreement with Colombia will therefore cover unprocessed and processed agricultural products, including wine. It will follow the agreement that the EU is concluding with Chile.