Organic processed products certified in the United States or Korea can now be labeled as organic in either country, USDA said Tuesday following the approval of an equivalency agreement that will allow American organic farmers, processors, and businesses greater access to Korea's growing market for organic products.
The arrangement eliminates barriers – especially for small and medium-sized organic businesses – in terms of costs, paperwork and delays. Without this equivalency arrangement in place, organic farmers previously had to prepare documentation for certification in both countries individually.
This is Korea's first organic equivalency arrangement with any trading partner. It was effective Tuesday.
"Korea is a growing, lucrative market for U.S. organic products, and this arrangement increases demand for American organic products," said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture.
Related: Korea OKs Plan to Continue Organic Trade with U.S.
According to the Organic Trade Association, the organic food market in Korea grew by an average rate of 50% from 2006 to 2011, and is expected to expand to $6 billion by 2020.
In 2011, OTA said, organic food represented 10% of the total agricultural products market in the country. Koreans are eating more organic packaged foods, organic beverages (especially organic green tea), as well as organic milk and yogurt, along with organic baby food, sweets and bread.
Prospects for additional agreements
The equivalency agreement opens the door to future organic trade arrangements between the U.S. and other partners, says U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
"We are committed to unlocking new opportunities for Americans and through this work we are delivering for the communities that depend on agricultural products," he said.
Leading up to the announcement, U.S. and Korean technical experts conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible.
The arrangement covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, and other processed products. According to U.S. industry estimates, exports of organic processed products from the United States are valued at approximately $35 million annually.
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Korea's National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service and the National Organic Program, part of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service—which oversee organic products in their respective countries—will both take on key oversight roles.
The United States and Korea will continue to have regular discussions and will review each other's programs periodically to ensure that the terms of the arrangement are being met.
For additional details on this agreement, please visit the Ag Marketing Service's website.