The National Organic Union (NOU) has celebrated the 5th anniversary of signing of the Memorandum on its establishment. Having united like-minded people in a successful team, it has become the leader of the organic movement in Russia since that time. What has been done for five years in operation and what is the future of organic production?
A powerful alliance
A few years ago, the customers wondered what organic products were. However, the situation has recently changed, so now the members of our society have greater awareness of proper nutrition issues. Moreover, the customers have shown considerable enthusiasm for healthy food.
‘The increasing interest of people in the organic production is our most significant achievement’, shares Sergey Bachin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of AGRANTA Group. ‘There used to be a lack of understanding of the organic terminology among the customers, therefore, they wanted to know what the organic chemistry, fertilisers and organic farming were. Conversely, nowadays the consumers have got acquainted with organic goods, thus, they can be sure that the production was processed without any food additives, chemical fertilisers, antibiotics and growth hormones.’
Among the major areas of focus of the NOU are promotion of the development of the organic agricultural market and products in Russia, support for producers, establishment of a legislative framework governing organic farming and consumption.
‘Over the years of work three State Standards were adopted, also the first version of the Russian law on organic production was made’, says Oleg Mironenko, Executive Director of the NOU. ‘We took an active part in the establishment of this law. Finally, the draft is under consideration in the State Duma now. It is expected to be adopted by the end of year 2018.’
The NOU includes the leading players in the industry and the pioneers of organic production in Russia. Among them is Stefan Duerr, President of EkoNiva Group and Savinskaya Niva, organic farming enterprise.
‘We joined the NOU a year ago’, says Stefan Duerr, President of EkoNiva Group. ‘At first, I was sсeptical about it, as everyone was trying to prove a point. Despite all the obstacles and difficulties, the NOU managed to unite us in a strong team. Although every member still has their own opinion, now we are trying to achieve a common goal — promotion and protection of high-quality organic products.’
Anatoliy Nakaryakov, Executive Director of Savinskaya Niva organic farming enterprise, also expressed his opinion.
‘We produce organic food for people, therefore, it shouldn’t be an exclusive premium product. It must be sold at a reasonable price for most citizens. In addition, the food packaging should be recognisable on shelves of the supermarkets,’ emphasises Anatoliy Nakaryakov. ‘Undoubtedly, organic sector needs new processors, as without them, it won’t be possible to increase a number of various goods in the market. The law might help us solve these problems.’
Law and order
There is a difference of opinion on the draft, which is under consideration in the State Duma now. According to the experienced manufacturers, while the industry has been undergoing a formative period, the law can cause serious harm to organic production in Russia.
‘I am not against the law, as it is essential’, emphasises Stefan Duerr. ‘But it is better to have no law than a bad one. Under the National Organic Union agreement producers can create their own quality marks, work within the standards of the union and as a result win the trust of consumers.’
Ilya Kaletkin, member of the Union, supports the expert opinion of his colleagues. He also believes that the law enactment should meet the needs of both producers and consumers.
‘The process of the law formation was long and complicated’, shares Ilya Kaletkin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arivera Group. ‘The draft, which was introduced and passed the first reading, was half-baked. We have faced the same problem with the second reading, as what is going to be adopted, is our source of concern. That’s why now we are preparing amendments and comments. We hope that the statutory wording will be corrected, as without the good law, we are unlikely to create a competent system.’
Other members of the NOU assure that any law is better than its complete absence.
‘Manufacturers definitely need to be supported legally’, says Vladimir Sadovin, General Director of Azbuka Vkusa. ‘Legalisation of the law for retail sector enables us to fight with pseudo-organic production.’
The NOU members expect that with the adoption of the law, there will be explosive growth in demand for product certification. However, it would be difficult to control counterfeit goods. Implementation of a rigid system, which would include certification, protection of the organic producers from counterfeiters, is essential for Russia.
‘I'm not sure that the law will have a positive impact on the rapid growth of this agricultural sector’, continues Anatoly Nakaryakov, ‘but I’m convinced that it can protect the producers from counterfeiting and so-called greenwashing.’
Sergey Bachin emphasises the importance of this issue and proposes to use the NOU as a public tool to control the certification centres.
Bio, eco, organic
The term organic product was introduced by the Russian State Standard. At the same time, the concepts of bio, eco and organic are not subject to certification by the law. Experts say that such inscriptions on the packaging of products mislead the customers. In Europe, on the contrary, manufacturers use all three concepts and consider them equivalent.
‘As these terms are directly related to organic products, we need to protect them by the law’, says Ilya Kaletkin. ‘Regulation of these terms by one law would be the best decision in this case, but this is not as easy to solve this problem.’
What can be a driver of development of the organic market? There is also a difference of opinion on this matter.
‘The domestic market may be the driver’, says Stefan Duerr, ‘it is risky to rely upon the export market. There is a significant proportion of customers who prefer organic products within the country. I am convinced that the Russian economy will expand efficiently and the purchasing power will develop.’
Vladimir Sadovin gets into a dispute and offers several ways of further development.
‘We shouldn’t think that any price is acceptable for the domestic market. I consider that there should be two ways of expanding: both the domestic and export markets, which can reduce the cost of production and processing.’
Such a heated discussion proves that in spite of the fact that organic production is a painstaking and immensely complicated activity, such products will definitely have a great future in Russia. The participants of the meeting assure that if they had returned to the past, they would have definitely started this business again.
By Darya DENISOVA