United States and Switzerland sign equivalency arrangement

News from OTA's Organic Export Program

Swiss consumers purchase more organic products per capita than any other consumer population in the world. They are the fourth largest market for organic products in the world after the United States, Canada, and the European Union and responsible for 3 percent of global purchases of organic in 2014. Now, U.S. organic farmers have streamlined access to this active market through an organic equivalency arrangement. 

On July 9, the United States and Switzerland signed the newest arrangement in a growing list of trading partners. Organic equivalency arrangements are an important part of the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) export promotion toolkit. Equivalency arrangements save time and money on both sides of the deal for farmers, exporters, importers, certifiers, and retailers. The organic equivalency arrangement marks the final step in opening the valuable European market to the U.S. organic sector and streamlining the trans-Atlantic flow of organic trade. 

“This new arrangement has been three years in the making, and we thank and congratulate officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for their successful collaborative efforts,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of OTA. “Swiss consumers put a high value on food quality and nutrition, and they’ve made organic a part of their daily diets. Now they will be able to enjoy greater access to the high-quality organic products from the U.S.” 

Effective as of July 10, 2015, the new pact allows organic products certified in the U.S. or Switzerland to be sold as organic in either country, and eliminates the need for two sets of fees, inspections and paperwork while still upholding high organic oversight standards.

“The arrangement opens Switzerland for U.S. organic farmers, ranchers and food makers,” said Robert Anderson, Senior Trade Advisor for OTA. “Equally important, coupled with the historic U.S.-EU organic equivalency agreement, it creates streamlined access to continental Europe’s strong organic marketplaces, and promotes mutually beneficial flows of organic ingredients between Switzerland, Europe and the U.S.”

The signing of the U.S.-Switzerland Organic Equivalency Agreement builds on the U.S. 2012 landmark equivalency agreement with the European Union, and in 2009 with Canada, the two biggest trading partners for the U.S. organic sector. It also follows the opening of the Asian market to American organic products made possible by the equivalency arrangements with Korea in 2014 and Japan in 2013.

OTA and the U.S. organic industry played an active role in directly advising and lending technical assistance to negotiators in facilitating the pact. OTA provided the organic sector’s perspective on key issues to USDA and USTR, reflecting OTA’s engagement with organic stakeholders through the EU Task Force and the OTA International Forum. The U.S. organic industry, along with accredited certifiers and USDA officials, also participated in site visits with delegations from Switzerland to demonstrate the quality of U.S. organic products and the integrity of the organic regulatory system. 

The organic market in Switzerland has grown steadily in recent years. According to Bio Suisse, the umbrella organization representing the Swiss organic sector, organic retail sales in 2013 in Switzerland jumped 12 percent from the previous year, reaching almost $2 billion worth (in U.S. dollars). Showing the biggest increase in organic sales were meat, fruit, processed products and cheese.

However, the fact that Switzerland is not a part of the U.S.-EU equivalency agreement since it is not a member of the EU had been a bottleneck in organic trade between the U.S, the EU and Switzerland. The new arrangement will facilitate those transactions and open new opportunities for organic farmers and processors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Further details and background information about this latest arrangement are available on OTA’s website. OTA also provides a Global Organic Trade Guide to help U.S. organic producers and handlers export organic products. The site features an in-depth Market Data section and the only map tool to communicate global organic trade information in real time to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and food processors looking to export organic products to Europe and the rest of the world. //