Organic produce

Mexico has extended its deadline for the U.S. to certify that organic exports meet Mexico's standards.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that Mexico’s secretariat of agriculture has extended to Dec. 31 the deadline for the U.S. to certify organic exports to that nation meets its organic standards.

In late December, Mexico published a measure requiring the certification by June 26, alarming the U.S. organic industry.

“We were very, very pleased with the announcement from Secretary Vilsack’s office,” said Alexis Carey, associate director of international trade for the Organic Trade Association.

The extension is great news, buying more time for U.S. companies to work through what is required, she said.

Those companies are working with suppliers to be recertified to Mexico’s standards. USDA and the Mexican government have clarified some questions on what is required, but OTA is still seeking clarification on labeling issues and enforcement at the retail level, she said.

In an April webinar for U.S. organic certifiers with Mexican and U.S. officials, it was mentioned that Mexico intends to enforce compliance at the retail level. It isn’t clear if non-compliant organic products will be sold as conventional or removed from shelves and destroyed, she said.

Mexico’s organic law was introduced several years ago, and the certification requirement was a provision. But it has not been enforced for U.S. products because the U.S. and Mexico were conducting organic equivalence negotiations, she said.

Mexico is now requiring certification to its domestic standards from all of its trading partners, she said, adding that it’s hard to speculate what pushed the requirement.

The new requirement will certainly add costs and burdens for U.S. exporters as it will require detailed audits throughout the supply line. There’s also likely to be costs involved if significant changes in labeling are required, she said.

Mexico is the second-largest market for U.S. organic exports, topping $117 million in 2020. Canada — where the U.S. has an equivalency agreement — is the top market, with more than $303 million in sales in 2020.

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