New design of the control system for group certification according to EU Regulation 279/2021 of 22/02/2021

New design of the control system for group certification according to EU Regulation 279/2021 of 22/02/2021

The new Commission Implementing Regulation 279/2021 has been published officially on 23-02-2021. It lays down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council on controls and other measures ensuring traceability and compliance in organic production and the labelling of organic products.

This new regulation 279/2021 re-defines the rules for group certification and it is important to highlight also that the same rules will be implemented for EU producers and world worldwide producers willing to export to EU organic market as requested by the new EU organic Regulation 848/2018 in which we are moving from equivalence to compliance. This new regulation EU 848/2018 in force from 01/01/2022 allows the group certification also in Europe. However, the current Regulation 834/07 and 889/08 does not allow the group certification in Europe however it third countries now it is possible to certify group of operators.

The current equivalent third countries are valid till 2026 until then bilateral trade agreements will have to be reached.

The new regulation 279/2021 which set-up the size and category of members of the group will have materials consequences for all certified organic groups world-wide. As first rule to open the access, the group shall be composed of members registered to only one group of operators and the maximum size of a group of operators shall be 2 000 members.

An important point to highlight is that according the new regulation only smallholders can ask to be member of group; the larger farmers and the processing unit shall ask for individual certification (Art. 36 (1) (b) Reg. EU 848/2018)

The group shall keep records of:

  • the appointment of the ICS (Internal Control System) manager;
  • the appointment of the ICS inspectors as well as the list of ICS inspectors;
  • list of members be updated by the ICS manager after any modification;
  • signed membership agreements between the member and the group of operators as legal person; Until now this requirement is not clear how to be implemented at international level;
  • internal inspection reports signed by the ICS inspector and the inspected member of the group of operators;
  • training records of the ICS inspectors;
  • training records of the members of the group of operators;
  • records of the measures taken in case of non-compliance by the ICS manager;
  • traceability records including information on the quantities;
  • written agreements and contracts between the group of operators and subcontractors.

The new regulation EU 279/2021 defines also rules on minimum percentages of controls and sampling percentages shall apply to the official controls to be carried out by each competent authority or, where appropriate, control authority or control body according to the risk of non-compliance as following:

  1. minimum 10 % of all official controls of operators or groups of operators shall be carried out without prior notice every year;
  2. minimum 10 % of additional controls shall be carried out every year;
  3. minimum 5 % of the number of operators shall be subject to sampling every year;
  4. minimum 2 % of the members of each group of operators shall be subject to sampling every year. This is could be an extra cost for the group.;
  5. minimum 5 % of the operators that are members of a group of operators, but not less than 10 members, shall be subject to re-inspection every year. Where the group of operators has 10 members or less, all members shall be controlled.