Changes to organic production rule in Northern Ireland
Organic businesses in Northern Ireland will have to comply with the new EU organic regulation 2018/848 from 1st January 2022.
This will apply to product produced / processed / packed / imported, etc in the EU & NI. Having left the EU, this regulation will not apply in GB.
Whilst the standards in GB remain the same, the name of the GB document will change, alongside the NI standards. The confirmed names of the new standards documents are as follows:
Standards for GB licensees:
- Soil Association Organic Standards for Great Britain (SA higher standards with 834 & 889)
- Organic Standards for Great Britain (baseline 834 & 889 not including higher standards)
Standards for NI licensees:
- Soil Association Organic Standards for Northern Ireland (SA higher standards with 848)
- Organic Standards for Northern Ireland (baseline 848 not including higher standards)
Many areas of the regulation remain unchanged, or with minor alterations or clarifications. Below we have summarised some of the most significant changes. We have separated the changes below into requirements that will affect all licence types and those that affect either processor or producer licensees. We refer to EC Regulation 2018/848 as ‘848’.
Where changes may have a significant impact on businesses we have tried to identify the affected individuals and have already contacted them directly about the changes.
If you think you will be negatively affected by a specific change, and we have not already contacted you, please contact your certification officer so that we can talk through any changes needed.
Please note that some areas of the new legislation are yet to be published, including detailed rules for importing products from third countries. We expect any outstanding legislation to be published over the next few weeks, and plan to review and update the Northern Ireland standards documents in January. A full summary of the changes made for the Northern Ireland documents will also be published alongside the updated versions in January.
848 allows a transition period for product produced before 1st January 2022. Those products may be placed on the EU market as organic until stocks are exhausted, (Art 60 2018/848).
This means for example:
- A business can continue to sell stocks of product they manufactured or packed before 1st January 2022, e.g. an organic soft drink made in 2021 could continue to be sold in 2022 (and beyond) until stocks are used up.
- A farmer harvesting wheat in 2021 can still sell that in 2022, or beyond.
- A processor can manufacture from 1st January 2022 using organic ingredients produced under 834/2007. E.g. organic fruit preparation produced in 2021 used as ingredient in yogurt after 1st January 2022. Seller of the fruit prep could continue to sell it until stocks are used up.
- However, a processor could not, for example, add a non-organic flavour to their product from 1st January 2022 unless the flavour complied with the new flavour requirements in 2018/848. E.g. soft drink produced in January 2022 could only add a non-organic flavour which complied with the new flavour requirements
You will eventually be issued with a new certificate referencing 2018/848. However, the regulation requires us to carry out an inspection and confirm compliance with 848 before we can issue that certificate. Until then, existing certificates will continue to be used until the end of their validity period, although they cannot be valid beyond 31st December 2022. We can amend a certificate issued in 2021 during 2022, (e.g. to add a new product), and that certificate will still reference 834/2007, until we have inspected and confirmed compliance to 848.
An operator cannot have certification with 2 different organic certification bodies for the same category of products in the same country. This includes at different stages of production, preparation and distribution (2018/848 Article 35.4).
The categories are as follows (2018/848 Article 35.7):
(a) unprocessed plants and plant products, including seeds and other plant reproductive material;
(b) livestock and unprocessed livestock products;
(c) algae and unprocessed aquaculture products;
(d) processed agricultural products, including aquaculture products, for use as food;
(g) other products listed in Annex I to this Regulation or not covered by the previous categories.
Below are some examples of what this means:
- An egg producer who also packs eggs, or a fresh produce grower who also packs the produce, could not hold certification with 2 different certification bodies. This is because both the production and the packing would be classed as category A products (unprocessed).
- An egg producer who then processes the eggs into mayonnaise could hold certification with different certification bodies because the egg production would fall under category A and the processing under category C (processed agricultural products).
Cleaning and disinfection products
Products used for cleaning and disinfection of buildings, and equipment used for plant production, processing and storage will eventually be restricted. A list of permitted substances will be produced by the European Commission, but this list is still being developed and will take some time. In the meantime, businesses can continue to use existing cleaning and disinfectant products until 31st December 2023.
Changes affecting processing activities
Change to permitted non-organic agricultural ingredients and derogation process
The list of permitted non-organic agricultural ingredients will be dramatically reduced. Businesses will be permitted to use non-organic agricultural ingredients currently listed in 889/2008 until 31st December 2023. See table below for details of permitted non-organic agricultural ingredients after 31st December 2023.
It will still be possible to obtain a derogation from the competent authority to use other non-organic agricultural ingredients if they are not available organically. For NI the Northern Ireland Competent Authority - NICA will issue derogations. A derogation will last for up to 6 months and can be renewed twice, so the maximum derogation period is 18 months. This is a change from the current 12 months which can be renewed 3 times.
Statement of agricultural origin – change of percentages
When using the EU organic (leaf) logo a statement of agricultural origin is required. The labelling can name a specific country if at least 95% of the ingredients were farmed/grown in that country. This is change from the current organic regulation 834/2007 which requires 98% of the ingredients were farmed/grown in that country.
If you use flavours in your organic product there are new restrictions on which natural flavourings are permitted.
- Requirement to include flavourings within the product percentage calculations. If you use non-organic flavourings, you will need to ensure the total non-organic agricultural ingredients used in your product do not exceed 5% by weight of the product.
- Restrictions tightened on types of natural flavouring substances or natural flavouring preparations. You may only use natural flavouring substances or natural flavouring preparations labelled in accordance with Flavour Regulation (EC) No 1334/2008, Article 16(2) (flavouring preparations and/or natural flavouring substances), Article 16(3) (natural substances) and Article 16(4) (flavouring obtained exclusively, by at least 95%, from the source material referred to).
Flavourings labelled according to Article 16(4) must be obtained, by at least 95%, from the source material referred to.
For example, for a lemon flavour, 95% of the flavour must come from lemons. The remaining 5% could include natural substances that are labelled according to Article 16(3), so for a lemon flavour, the remaining 5% does not have to come from lemons.
- For organic flavours:
- The same restrictions on types of natural flavours apply as outlined in point 2
- The flavouring components must be organic, although up to 5% non-organic flavouring may be used, provided it complies with the restrictions outlined in point 2
- The carriers used must be organic, although up to 5% non-organic carriers may be used, provided they are listed in 2018/848 as permitted non-organic
- Only additives or processing aids listed in 2018/848 may be used.
Changes affecting farming and growing
The sale of seeds and propagating material (not seedlings), can be marketed as ‘in conversion’ after 12 months of conversion
With the exception of grassland and perennial forage, crop rotation will now be required to include leguminous crops as a main or cover crop, as well as other green manure crops.
In the case of greenhouses and perennial crops (other than forage), it will also be necessary to include short-term green manure crops and legumes and introduce plant diversity.
It will still be possible to grow organic and conventional perennial crops of different varieties that cannot be easily differentiated or of the same variety however the whole area must convert to organic within 5 years.
The proportion of feed coming from the farm itself or, if not possible, produced in the region remains at 60% initially but will increase to 70% from 1st January 2024
The percentage of 2nd year conversion feed not coming from the farm is reduced to a maximum of 25% compared to 30% currently. In conversion feed produced on the holding itself is still allowed to be fed at 100%.
If animal feeding with maternal milk is not possible, the organic milk replacer must be 100% organic, i.e., must not contain synthetic chemical components authorised as additives, or components of plant origin, including organic components, before weaning.
It will no longer be possible to carry out the final fattening phase of adult cattle for meat production exclusively indoors.
End of authorisation of non-organic pullets
Non-organic pullets under 18 weeks of age, only complying with the feeding and vet and med rules of organic farming, may no longer be used. The rearing of pullets over 3 days old must therefore comply with the organic requirements and in particular the housing conditions and indoor and outdoor densities.
Non-organic protein feeds: only for young poultry and young pigs
It will still be possible to use non-organic protein feeds up to a maximum of 5% in the ration per 12-month period, provided that there is no organic feed available, and that it is prepared without chemical solvents as it is today. The possibility to use non-organic protein feed may end on 31st December 2026, after a review by the European Commission in 2026.
Perches and/or raised sitting level should be available not only for layers, but also for all poultry from an early age (except ducks and geese).
New requirements have been introduced allowing the subdivision of poultry houses into compartments to accommodate several batches, which must not be allowed to mix. The requirements differ according to the type of poultry.
For more information, you can read the new standards in more detail.