Farmers in Seychelles marketing their products as organic will need to be certified under new legislation being worked on by the National Biosecurity Agency, a top official said.
The chief executive of the Agency, Marc Naiken, told SNA on Thursday that when the legislation comes into force, any farmer who is marketing their products as organic without being certified might be forced to remove their items on the market.
"We have been approached on different occasions in regards to farmers who are selling their goods as organic and asked what are the standards being used for this. This showed a deficiency in the agricultural sector which we needed to address," he said.
Naiken added that farmers will not be obliged to certify their product as organic when the legislation comes into force.
Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Many countries have implemented standards, regulations and certification of organic farming and organic food.
The news has been welcomed by the Seychelles Farmers Association and the chairperson, Andre Sopha, said that it was about time the government introduce standards and legislation to certify those marketing their product as organic.
A farmer, Jacques Matombe, with over 20 years of experience, told SNA that introducing such standards will give people value for their money.
"Some products currently being sold in the market are said to be organic when it is not. Whenever we hear organic, the price is elevated. People are becoming very conscious about their health. Before purchasing anything, I am pretty sure that people would want to be satisfied that the product they are buying is really organic. The certification will provide that certainty," said Matombe.
Currently, a number of agricultural products being sold across Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, are marketed as organic but according to the National Biosecurity Agency, these products are presently not regulated. This makes it difficult for consumers to know when products sold on the local market are truly organic.
"Farmers declare their farms to be organic without going through any system. So we will develop a programme which will set out the standards to gain such accreditation," said Naiken.
He added that this will protect actual organic producers from those who falsely claim to be as "organic farming uses a variety of methods - it's not just about not making use of pesticide but also takes into account the plants' nutrition and the farming process."
The chairperson of the Seychelles Farmers Association said that while it is important to set up standards and legislation, the government needs to ensure that the perfect environment and necessary tools are available in the country to practice organic farming.
The Agency has recruited a local consultant, Evelyn Drawec, a specialist with experience on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standard, to work on the certification system.
"I have been working in organic certification primarily in the United States... I see Seychelles as being well set up to have an organic programme. A lot of the techniques that are prioritised in organics, such as crop rotation, diversity of crops on the farm and natural inputs, are being used by all around Seychelles so it will be easy to transition to organic methods," said Drawec.
Provision to draft the legislation was endorsed by the Seychelles' Cabinet of Ministers last week in a meeting chaired by President Danny Faure and work will take around two years to finalise.