Skip to main content.
Enviropaedia Sponsors and Supporters

Organic Certification

Author: Liz Eglington - Blue Sky Organics

( Article Type: Opinion )

Organic certification in South Africa has been done primarily through formal certification by several certification agencies operating in the country. Most are affiliated to European or American certification agencies in order to protect and assure the country of importation.

This is an expensive system with strict and rigorous measurement and reporting requirements that are more suitable for large producers wishing to supply the large retail outlets or for exporting. Certification is usually valid for 1 year only, and requires an annual inspection by a qualified inspector. This can take anything from a half day to 2 days depending on the complexity of the farm or unit being certified. Farmers or producers wishing to certify for the first time have to prove beyond doubt that their farm has been chemical free for a minimum of 3 years.

If the certification agency is satisfied, they could attain organic certification immediately, but it is normal for there to be an ‘in conversion’ period for up to 3 years depending on what is found. Labelling is an important aspect of organic certification and all certified organic products must have the details of the producer, the farm, the certification agency and the certification number.

This certification number is unique to each producer and can be checked on at any stage. For smallholder or emerging farmer producers an affordable and easier certification system has been introduced into South Africa- the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) which is widely used and accepted internationally. It is a locally-focused quality assurance systems, using peer review as a methodology. The quality is assured through following IFOAM organic standards. Producers are certified based on the active participation of stakeholders and is built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.
It is an Organic Assurance for small-scale farmers and grower groups focused on serving the local markets. PGS is receiving growing local and international acceptance