On Wednesday, the web of the worldwide organic marketplace stretched larger as United States Department of Agriculture officials announced an equivalency program with South Korea.
The program will allow certified organic products in either South Korea or the United States to be sold as organic in either country. Without such an agreement, organic producers are forced to obtain separate certifications, and comply with two sets of standards, fees, paperwork and inspectors, to meet each country’s standards. The agreement covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk and other processed products.
It’s a deal that replicates agreements the United States has made with Japan, Canada and the European Union, the last two of which are the biggest trading partners for U.S. organic agriculture, according to the Organic Trade Association.
With a population of 50 million, Korea offers a promising market for U.S. producers, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.
"Korea is a growing, lucrative market for U.S. organic products, and this arrangement increases demand for American organic products," he said.
According to the OTA, Korea’s organic food market grew by an average of 50 percent between 2006 and 2011, and is expected to expand to $6 billion by 2020. The association estimates that American exports of organic processed foods and beverages to Korea, valued at $35 million in 2013, will more than double over the next five years thanks to the new streamlined trading system.
Vilsack foreshadowed future agreements in Asia when the USDA announced the equivalency program with Japan at Natural Products Expo East in September 2013.
“(The agreement) is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia,” Vilsack said in a press release.
At its annual conference in May, the Organic Trade Association indicated that in addition to South Korea, several Latin American countries, including Mexico and Costa Rica, are also working toward their own equivalency programs.