Export Control (Organic Produce certification) Orders Review - background paper


The Department of Agriculture is working on a review of the Orders which includes input from stakeholders. Stakeholder feedback will enable the department to implement legislation that is effective but also ensures importing country requirements are met. The information provided here relates to the summary paper and questionnaire about this matter.

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The department is the central competent authority for the export of products certified and labelled as organic and biodynamic. The department is responsible for the administration of the Export Control (Organic Produce Certification) Orders (the Orders), the Government Administrative Arrangements for Approved Certifying Organisations Managing Inspection and Certification Programs for the export of certified Australian Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce (Administrative Arrangements) and the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce (National Standard).

The department has approved six certifying organisations to conduct annual inspections and certification services of operators certified to produce organic and bio-dynamic products for export. The six approved certifying organisations are:

  • AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
  • Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
  • Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
  • NASAA Certified Organic (NCO)
  • Organic Food Chain (OFC)
  • Tasmanian Organic-dynamic Producers (TOP)

The Administrative Arrangements, the National Standard, and the Orders are currently used as the basis for the export of organic and biodynamic products to most overseas countries and form the basis for overseas market access negotiations.

The Administrative Arrangements

The Administrative Arrangements1 outline the requirements for interpretation and application of the National Standard by all approved certifying organisations. These Administrative Arrangements have been based on ISO/IEC (Guide) 65, which is an internationally recognised and adopted standard for organic certification systems.

All certifying organisations must have a documented Quality Management (QM) manual which details the responsibilities and duties, procedures and policies of their organisation.

National Standard

The National Standard2 was first implemented in 1992 as the Australian export standard for products labelled organic or bio-dynamic. Since inception it has provided the organic industry with a nationally agreed Standard for export purposes.

The National Standard3 provides a framework for the organic industry covering production, processing, transportation, labelling and importation. Furthermore the Standard aims to ensure conditions of fair competition in the market place by distinguishing those products produced according to this Standard from those produced by other means. Use of this Standard provides transparency and credibility for the industry and aims to protect the consumer against deception and fraud.

The Orders

The Orders4 ensure that produce displaying ‘organic’, ‘bio-dynamic’, ‘biological’, ‘ecological’ or any other word of similar indication is not exported unless the produce is from a system that complies with the National Standard and the laws of an importing country. Under this arrangement, the export of produce labelled as ‘organic’, ‘bio-dynamic’, ‘biological’, ‘ecological’ or any other word of similar indication is prohibited unless an organic produce certificate has been issued.

Regulatory Mark

Image of black and white Australian Certified logo

At the request of the Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee, the department developed a regulatory mark4 for use on Australian certified produce for export. This mark was issued under an Instrument of Approval for use by certified operators on a voluntary basis. Since its publication in 2004, there have been no certified operators using this Regulatory Mark on the labels of organic and biodynamic products for export. However some organic operators have been using an alternative “Regulatory Mark”(shown below). This mark is an unapproved mark under current legislation and operators have been instructed to cease using the mark as of 30 June 2011.


  • The Commonwealth Government Legislative Instruments Act 2003 stipulates that a review of legislation must be completed under a sun-setting period of every 10 years from the date of commencement.
  • 2. The Orders were finalised in 1997 and gazetted, they were reviewed in 2005 with minor amendments made to accommodate changes to the Export Control (Prescribed Goods – General) Orders (PGGO). A further review of the Orders commenced in late 2008 in consultation with industry via the seven approved certifying organisations. This review identified several areas of the Orders where legislative amendments were required. In summary these included:
    • Issuing Organic Produce Certificates
    • Certification of organic operators
    • Approval of certifying organisations
    • Other legislation
    • Use of a Government logo for export
    • Consistent terminology throughout legislative documents

    Refer to Attachment 1 for an expanded explanation of the proposed amendments.

  • ​​A robust export system will help facilitate trade of local certified produce.
  • There is no clear linkage between the Orders, the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce and the Administrative Arrangements. At times, this lack of a clear linkage has been questioned by overseas authorities.
  • The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products developed by Standards Australia5 was published in October 2009.
  • The Orders currently mandate that all exports of organic produce must be accompanied by an Organic Produce Certificate (OPC). As some overseas countries do not require government-to-government certification, consideration will be given to amend the mandate for those countries that do not require organic produce certificates.
  • Due to the department repealing the use of the regulatory mark as of 30 June 2011; industry representatives have requested the department to consider a new official mark6 for export to maintain the integrity of Australian produce certified by approved certifying organisations. The growing number of private certification schemes results in an increase in the quantity of certified products/inputs. Some of these products have the potential to disrupt trade in certified products to established markets.
  • Key overseas markets such as United States, Europe and Japan have implemented protocols relating to the application of official marks on certified products which conform to their laws.

Approved Certifying Organisations
Approved Certifying Organisations
3 Export Legislation
4 Regulatory mark means a voluntary mark for use on Australian organic and biodynamic product labels for export
5 Standards Australia website
6 Official mark means any stamp, seal, label or mark that is declared by the regulations to be an official mark (as per Export Control Act)

Attachment 1

Amendments Considered in the review of the Export Control (Organic Produce Certification) Orders

The following table contains a list of items considered in the 2008-09 review process of the Orders.

Focus: Issuing Organic Produce Certificates
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

To provide organic produce certificates (OPC) for all exports of organic or biodynamic produce.

  • Has an approved Certifying Organisation the ability to revoke an OPC?
    • If a certificate is revoked, there is no system to stop the export of the product, or apply sanctions if it is exported. Reference to the Export Control Act is needed for this.
  • Potential to introduce the EXDOC system for management of OPCs.
  • What sanctions can be applied if OPCs are not completed correctly?
    • The department has no ability to apply sanctions for false information on or misuse of an OPC.
  • It has been suggested that certain organic products (e.g. water) have been exported in contravention to the Orders.

To provide organic produce certificates (OPC) only to those overseas markets requiring such documentation.

  • Certification for export should only be issued based on importing country requirements.
    • Transhipping from one market into another could result in questions being raised if non-compliance exists (e.g. certified water).
  • Systems of conformity assessment negate the need for certification to be issued by an exporting country.
    • Should OPCs be issued for product exported under commercial conformity assessment arrangements between a private certifying organisation and the relevant importing country?
Focus: Certification of Organic Operators
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

Order 3.08 indicates that a QM certificate must be issued by an authorised officer to an approved certifying organisation or operator.

  • The department has not issued a QM certificate to individual operators as this activity has been largely fulfilled by approved certifying organisations;
    • The department has limited resources to undertake inspection and certification of individual operators.
  • The department is currently listed under European Regulations as a certifying body.

Which standard for Australian organic produce?

  • The Orders require compliance with trade description (i.e. organic), but there is no clear indication how this is achieved or assessed;
    • Should reference be made to the National Standard or the Australian Standard?

Department audits and inspections by approved certifying organisations

  • Order 3.14 applies to authorised officers and requires a routine audit once a year;
    • Should the department's audit frequency be reduced for those approved certifying organisations that continually demonstrate compliance? For those that do not maintain compliance, audits are increased to 6-monthly intervals.
  • There is no mention of inspection by an approved certifying organisation, but the frequency of inspection is identified in the Administrative Arrangements;
    • Should the Administrative Arrangements be included into legislation?
Focus: Approval of certifying organisations
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

Reference to QM manual and QM system

  • Should the Orders have provision for accreditation bodies (e.g. JAS-ANZ, IFOAM)?
    • Should the approval requirements for export be based solely on ISO/IEC (Guide) 65?

Issue of QM Certificate

  • Should these certificates be issued to approved certifying organisations following a successful annual audit or as required?
    • Should there be an issue date along with an expiry date?
  • How does the department ensure there is on-going compliance with the export Standard?
Focus: Other legislation
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

Auditing of approved certifying organisations

  • Should export legislation allow auditing of certifying organisations by third party agencies?

Ensure that the requirements for prescribed goods are applied at the time of export.

  • Need to be quite specific especially about small consignments (under 10kg).
Focus: Use of the Government mark
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

A Government mark may compliment the export system by clearly identifying conforming certified products.

  • May need mention in the Objective of the document. Currently only in the content of organic produce certificates.
  • Provide assurance that the product is certified and recognised by Australia as such.
Focus: Product not in compliance with export legislation
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

Strengthen the legal provisions to enable appropriate enforcement of compliance.

  • Should the Orders include detailed sanctions that would be applied to approved certifying organisations and certified operators or other related parties to ensure export markets are maintained?
  • Codex Food Labelling Committee is currently debating the merits of competent authorities reporting non-compliance issues to other like authorities.
Focus: Inconsistent terminology
TopicIssues/Matter for Consideration

To maintain consistency in Government legislation and international Standards

  • Examples of inconsistent terminology are:
    • The Export Control Act (the Act)refers to ‘Goods’ while the Orders refers to ‘Produce’
    • Reference to audits in the Orders is ‘routine and random’. In the Act they are referred to as ‘routine and additional’ with another level of ‘announced and unannounced’
    • An approved system is referenced as ‘QM manual and QM system’ in the Orders and ‘approved arrangement’ in the PGGOs.
    • In CODEX international Standards a ‘certifying organisation’ is referred to as a ‘certification body’.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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