The term 'organic agriculture' refers to a process that uses methods
respectful of the environment from the
production stages through the handling and processing. Organic farming
is not merely concerned with a product, but also with the
whole system used to produce and deliver the product to the ultimate
Consumers' concern with food quality and safety, as well as the protection of the environment, were the first
to stimulate demand for organic products, and have become the driving force in the development of organic
agriculture, particularly in industrialized countries. Governments have responded by setting targets for the expansion of
organic production, and new market opportunities have developed as part of the strategy to address such concerns.
Asian governments have recently become interested in organic farming with the expansion of the market for
organic products and their potential for promoting sustainable agriculture. Accordingly, almost all have put priority on
organic certification and accreditation, even though the major constraints in organic farming in Asia are still at the level of
farm production. The proliferation of public organic standards and inspection systems, however, seems to have caused
confusion among Asian traders of organic products. Hence, international harmonization of these standards and systems need to
Public-private sector partnership is also urgently needed if the
rapid growth of organic agriculture in Asia is to
be sustained. Re-orientation of government policies is required,
including support for farm extension, development of
post-harvest technologies, and supply chain management. Closer
collaboration between NGOs, the private sector,
farmers, scientists, and public authorities can ensure that the efforts
of each group are not in conflict with one another and that
synergy is achieved.
The important role of research and development is well recognized in terms of providing the technology to enhance
farm productivity, such as in the areas of plant protection using new biological tools and methods, soil management and
organic fertilization, genetics and breeding to obtain natural resistance and to overcome biological stress, etc.
Many conventional farmers consider converting to organic farming due to the rapidly growing market for
organic products and the prospect of higher prices. However, they are also aware that organic farming may entail some
constraints and possibly higher costs, and are therefore unsure whether they will be economically better off in the end if they
convert. Economic and financial evaluation may help them make a better assessment of the profitability of conversion. In this
regard, the most important economic parameters that should be analyzed are: 1) possible fall in yields (with the possibility
of recovery later); 2) difference in production costs (labor costs tend to increase in particular); and 3) price difference
(organic prices tend to be higher, but not always).
While all these parameters vary over time, which implies that various scenarios should be considered, a crucial
factor here is the availability of information and technology to ensure farm productivity and to cushion farmers from the
impact of conversion.
In most major organic product markets such as the industrialized
countries, demand for organic products far
outstrips domestic supply, and therefore imports are required to fill
the gap. This represents a major opportunity for
developing countries in Asia, but marketing and distribution appear to
be a major constraint for small-scale farmers. Another issue
is meeting the demanding quality and safety standards of major markets.
In many countries in the region, many factors contribute to additional costs in marketing the products: inspection
and certification fees, segregated storage, fewer options to control post-harvest pests and diseases, need for careful handling
to avoid dilution and contamination, appropriate packaging and labeling, and economies of scale. Organic producers
comprise a smaller proportion of the agricultural industry with individual producers being usually small-scale and widely
dispersed. Hence, more and more small-scale farms will need to form themselves into production and marketing teams to enlarge
the scale of production and marketing.
In recent years, an expanding number of governmental regulations for organic products have developed worldwide
in parallel with private systems. However, while the purpose of certification is to foster confidence of consumers and
to enhance trade in organic products, the certification requirements and regulations today are somewhat becoming an
obstacle to the development of the organic industry, especially in the developing countries.
There is undoubtedly a need for harmonization of organic guarantee systems not only between the private and
public sectors, but among countries and markets of the world to sustain and further enhance trade in organic products and
the livelihood that this trade supports. A better understanding of the appropriate roles for government and private bodies
in standard setting, certification and accreditation is required. An international mechanism for establishing
equivalence among these systems is regarded as the best approach to the problem, one that respects diversity in organic
agricultural systems and where variations in standards are allowed where appropriate.
Major issues confronting the production and marketing of organic products in Asian countries were identified during
the seminar. The issues have been summarized as follows:
Awareness of organic farming/products could be enhanced through appropriate research and extension programs, as
well as, educational/training and promotional activities.
To spur growth of the organic industry, especially, in the developing countries, there is a need for government to place
higher priority on organic farming. To achieve this, relevant data on the impact of organic farming on the environment and
people's welfare, as well as, its role in sustainable agriculture should be generated and disseminated for better
appreciation, particularly, by policy-makers.
To improve production of organic products there is a need to intensify research and development (R&D), undertake
training/education of extension workers/farmers to enhance their technical know-how, and improve farmers' access to the
required inputs. Due to expected/possible decline in yield during the conversion period, there is a need also to provide some
form of support or incentive to affected farmers. Infrastructure support including postharvest facilities for organic
farming should also be provided.
There is also a need to develop appropriate marketing channels for organic produce, including the establishment of
direct links between producers and consumers. In this regard, innovative forms of marketing should be explored such as
on-farm marketing and agro-tourism. As part of the marketing promotion effort, consumer education should also be undertaken.
Most of the participants of the seminar felt the need to strengthen their certification and regulation of organic products.
There is a need to harmonize the standards for organic production and for this purpose the establishment of a regional
accreditation organization is suggested. Another aspect is the need to promote awareness of the standards and regulations among
the various stakeholders. The third is the need to improve access to the certification system considering that accreditation
can be very costly, especially, for small farmers/producers.
In order to stimulate further the growth of an organic food industry
in the region there is a need to
establish/strengthen linkages/networking among countries in the region.
In this regard, it is suggested that sharing of experiences and
best practices on organic farming should be fast tracked through
relevant networks and media.
In most Asian countries, the area under organic production is still
very small compared with those of the
industrialized countries. There are enormous challenges facing the
organic agriculture movement in the region. With Asia accounting
for more than half of the world's population but with only one-third of
the world's farmland, there is a need to integrate
past and present practices to find new ways to meet increasing food
demand. Through the introduction of technological
and management improvements, organic farming could become an
increasingly important part of the region's
diversified agricultural production system toward attaining improved
productivity, farm income, and food safety.
Held at the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI), Taichung, Taiwan ROC on September 20-25
Countries represented: 13 (Japan, Taiwan ROC, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia,
Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam)
Papers presented: 20 (6 resource papers, 14 country reports)
Cosponsors: Asian Productivity Organization; Council of Agriculture, Taiwan ROC; China Productivity Center;
Agricultural Research Institute, COA, Taiwan ROC
For further information contact:
Dr. Te-Yeh Ku, FFTC Technical Consultant
Figure 1 Organic Farming in Singapore
Figure 2 Certified Organic Vegetable Products in the Market
Figure 3 Orientation Briefing of Participants
(Right and Organic Vegetable Display Area (below at the Puregreen
Organic Farms in Taichung, Taiwan Roc