Approved certifying bodies
The Export Control (Organic Goods) Rules 2021 enable the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) to assess an organic certifier and recognise it as an approved certifying body. Once an organic certifier is recognised as an approved certifying body, it may perform the following functions on behalf of the department:
- assess organic and bio-dynamic operators to determine compliance to the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce and importing country requirements
- certify organic/bio-dynamic operators/exporters as compliant with Australia’s export requirements
- issue organic goods certificates, prior to export, for consignments of organic and bio-dynamic goods exported from Australia.
The department has several approved certifying bodies that manage the certification process of organic and bio-dynamic operators and exporters.
All approved certifying bodies are assessed by the department for both initial recognition and at least annually thereafter to verify compliance with all requirements.
The department consults with and informs approved certifying bodies and industry about any changes to Australia’s export requirements and importing country requirements. Organic Notices are distributed to inform stakeholders about system changes and issues.
Questions and answers
How do I become an approved certifying body?
To become an approved certifying body, you must apply to the department by completing the application form Application to be an approved certifying body (organic goods) and providing relevant supporting documentation.
The department's Organic Exports Program will assess your application, including:
- A review of documentation provided
- Conducting an on-site audit at your business premise to assess the adequacy and effective implementation of the proposed arrangement.
If deemed to be adequate, the department will formally approve the arrangement and the organic certifier will become an approved certifying body that can undertake organic goods certification and inspection functions on behalf of the department.
Information on the fees and charges relating to the application and ongoing assessment processes for approved arrangements for organic goods certification operations is available on the department’s website.
What ongoing assessment does the department conduct for approved certifying bodies?
An announced audit is conducted annually by the department, together with a review of a percentage of the operators/exporters certified by the approved certifying body. This audit is conducted in accordance with sections 265–275 of the Export Control Act 2020.
The annual announced audit assesses whether the approved arrangement is adequately documented and effectively implemented to comply with the following:
- The Export Control (Organic Goods) Rules 2021
- The National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce
- importing country requirements
- relevant policy documents to ensure the approved arrangement is operating as intended.
The review of operators is generally done by witnessing an inspection conducted by the approved certifying body’s inspectors/auditors. The purpose of these reviews is to assess the competency of the approved certifying body’s inspectors/auditors, including how effectively they assess compliance to the requirements of the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce and importing country requirements; and action taken to address identified areas of non-compliance.
What are my responsibilities as an approved certifying body?
As an approved certifying body, you are responsible for:
- advising your clients about export requirements, including interpreting the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce
- monitoring organic and bio-dynamic operations to ensure that goods certified through your systems comply with the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce and importing country requirements
- maintaining records to verify that you have robust systems in place to manage the organic/bio-dynamic certification processes
- issuing export documentation (organic goods certificates) in accordance with the department's requirements, and ensuring that they correctly reflect the goods and the organic or bio-dynamic status of these goods
- advising the department of any change in your operations or those of your clients so that ineligible goods are not exported
- providing reports to the department when requested to facilitate ongoing market access.
What are my responsibilities for issuing organic goods certificates?
As an approved certifying body, you must ensure that you issue and manage organic goods certificates, in accordance with the department’s protocols. You must also ensure the approved arrangement has processes in place to prevent the fraudulent use of these certificates.
How do I know what the requirements are for importing countries?
As an approved certifying body, you must be able to provide advice to your clients about importing country requirements. If the department becomes aware of changes to importing country requirements the advice is circulated to all approved certifying bodies usually in the form of a Market Access Advice Notice.
However, the department is not always notified of these changes and as such, it is essential that exporters are aware of importing country requirements. It is an exporter’s responsibility to meet requirements for products and commodities to be accepted for import into specific overseas countries.
This information should also be available through importers, who should be able to provide advice to certifiers and exporters regarding their country's importing requirements.