Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page



The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was founded in 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations. Today, FAO is the largest specialized agency in the United Nations system and the lead agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. An intergovernmental organization, FAO has 180 member countries plus one member organization, the European Community.

Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security - defined as the access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

A specific priority of the Organization is encouraging sustainable agriculture and rural development, a long-term strategy for increasing food production and food security while conserving and managing natural resources. The aim is to meet the needs of both present and future generations by promoting development that does not degrade the environment and is technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.

The focus of FAO work on organic agriculture

In 1999 FAO started to develop a cross-sectoral programme in organic agriculture with several distinct functions, all aimed at enabling member countries to make informed choices about organic management. The organic agriculture programme collaborates and builds partnerships with interested institutions including national organic programmes or associations, NGOs, and national and international research centres.

Information and services

A Web site was launched in July 2000 to provide interactive access to worldwide organic agriculture information in five languages. The website facilitates retrieving FAO documents, searching world literature and provides information on country data, statistics, projects, discussion fora, meetings and links relevant to all aspects of organic agriculture - (


Following FAO’s request, the International Standard Industrial Classification established a technical subgroup to introduce organic agriculture statistics into global statistical systems. The review will be submitted for consideration to the UN Statistical Commission meeting in 2002.

Assistance in capacity building

FAO intends to provide countries with specific assistance for the development of appropriate national legislation, certification capabilities, research and extension facilities, as well as to promote the exchange of experiences between countries.

Standards and certification

Countries seek assistance in deciphering the multitude of rules that various traders expect their suppliers to follow. Increasing international trade in organic products has placed FAO at the forefront of efforts to achieve greater harmony in organic standards. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has endorsed Guidelines on the Production, Processing, Marketing and Labelling of Organically Produced Foods for crops and livestock.

Provision of technical and economic information

FAO intends to help developing countries gain access to international markets by providing technical information on production requirements and trade information on market opportunities. This is done through studies, among others. Several studies have been completed, namely:

Studies and guidelines in progress include:

Organization of conferences and seminars to disseminate information

FAO has held several meetings on the issues of trade and marketing of organic products. FAO is preparing a conference on "Supporting the diversification of exports in the Latin American/Caribbean region through the development of organic horticulture" (Trinidad and Tobago, 8-10 October 2001). The Intergovernmental Group on Bananas and Tropical Fruits discussed the market for organic and fair trade bananas in May 1999 and will review the latest developments in December 2001. FAO actively participates in the conferences of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

For further information contact:

Secretary, Inter-Departmental Working Group on Organic Agriculture
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Email: [email protected]
Tel. (39-06) 570 56729


The International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC) is the focal point in the United Nations system for technical cooperation with developing countries and economies in transition in trade promotion and export development. ITC was created by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1964 and since 1968 has been operated under the joint aegis of GATT/WTO and the UN, the latter acting through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). ITC works with these countries to set up effective national trade promotion programmes for expanding their exports and improving their import operations. ITC has four divisions: a Division of Administration and a Department of Operations comprising three substantive technical divisions, i.e. the Division of Trade Support Services, the Division of Product and Market Development and the Division of Technical Cooperation Coordination.

In 1999, ITC published a market survey entitled Organic Food and beverages: world supply and major European markets, financed by the Government of Denmark. The survey covers seven European markets in detail and provides a global overview on world trade, including world supply, by country and product group, and it identifies market opportunities for developing countries and transition economies. It also devotes a chapter to certification, explaining what it is, why it is necessary, regulations in major markets, and options available to producers and exporters in developing countries. Finally it gives practical information, including key names and addresses, standards and regulations.

Since 1999, ITC has undertaken a series of seminars on export development of organic products in 16 developing countries in Africa and Asia, including 14 LDCs. The seminars, which were also financed by the Government of Denmark, were organized in cooperation with local organic trade and farming associations, whenever possible, in order to facilitate capacity building. During the seminars, the main findings and recommendations of the ITC study were discussed. Special emphasis was put on problems facing the organic sector in each of the participating countries, and how to benefit from the growing world demand for organic products. As a follow-up to the seminars, various technical cooperation activities are expected to take place in several of the countries visited.

In 1999, ITC completed a study (financed by the Government of Switzerland) on the possible establishment of a national certifier of organic products in Ethiopia - in particular for coffee which makes up more than 50 percent of the country’s export earnings. Phase two of this project has just started.

An Organic Cocoa Guide is currently being prepared as a supplement in cooperation with the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). The supplement guide (40-50 pages) is scheduled to be printed by the end of 2001.

ITC is currently undertaking a study on the North American market for organic food and beverages, which is expected to be published by the end of 2001. The scope of the study goes beyond fruit and vegetables to cover all organic foods. It will cover the United States and Canada and provide information on supply and demand, market requirements, distribution channels, market access, etc. and identify market opportunities for organic products that offer market potential for commercial production in developing countries.

ITC is undertaking, in cooperation with the Spices Board of India, a three year project on Empowerment of Rural Communities to Export Organic Spices from India, which is financed by the World Bank. While the ultimate goal is to improve the income level of Indian small-scale spice producers, the project’s objective is to link these with high value export markets for organic spices. This will be achieved through partnerships with local institutions and NGOs. The project will generate outputs related to improved organizational and entrepreneurial skills to exploit business opportunities, technical capability to produce organic spices that can be certified, export-related support services to micro-producers concerning organic production techniques and marketing, appropriate information on target markets, and well established market relationships.

A new project entitled Export development of organic products from LDCs and other low-income DCs is expected to start in 2001. The main purpose of the project is to assist these countries in their efforts to produce and export certified organic products. The project will help DCs build up capacity to meet the certification requirements of target markets, to create a strong export marketing capacity in the participating countries, and to increase regional cooperation between interested countries, and between producers, exporters, organic associations and NGOs, in areas like certification, market intelligence, export marketing, e-business and joint participation in trade fairs.

To the extent that financing is available, ITC plans to carry out a number of similar export market development activities, both on a country-by-country basis and on a regional and inter-regional basis. In carrying out this work ITC will obviously have to work in close cooperation with a number of other organizations (national, international, regional, NGOs, associations, certification bodies, etc.), including FAO, UNCTAD, CTA and IFOAM, as well as the donor community.

For further information contact:

Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10
Tel. (41-22) 7300111
Fax (41-22) 7334439
Email: [email protected]


Mandate and programmes

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) was established in 1983 under the Lomé Convention between the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States and the European Union Member States. Since 2000 it has operated within the framework of the ACP-EC Cotonou Agreement, signed for a duration of 20 years.

CTA’s tasks are to develop and provide services that improve access to information for agricultural and rural development, and to strengthen the capacity of ACP countries to produce, acquire, exchange and utilize information in this area. CTA’s programmes are organized around four principal themes:

The priority themes for CTA are intensification and optimization of agricultural production, environmental protection and natural resources management and the promotion and access of ACP agricultural products to local, regional and international markets.

Support to organic agriculture

The thematic complex of organic agriculture touches on all the priority themes listed above, specifically with relation to food safety, diversification alternatives in agricultural production, income-generation for small and medium-scale farmers and improved access to regional and international markets, mainly through exports from ACP countries. Organic agriculture can also play a role in achieving CTA’s broad objectives of poverty reduction, food security and sustainable development.

Until now, CTA has supported seven publications in French and English on various aspects of organic production - ecofarming practices, producing food without pesticides, the EU regulation on organic farming, etc. - including sensitization articles in the Bulletin Spore. Furthermore, CTA co-organized and co-funded a workshop on Organic banana: towards an organic banana initiative in the Caribbean, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1999 and supported the publication of the main findings, as well as a workshop on Farmer participatory methods in ecological crop management in Trinidad and Tobago, in 2000.

Under its Seminar Support Programme, CTA is providing financial support to ACP nationals in the field of agricultural and rural development to attend regional and international conferences on topics of relevance to their areas of work. While many meetings were supported whose topics can be linked to organic agriculture (such as biological nitrogen fixation, balanced nutrient management and integrated pest management), CTA also supported five participants in the 13th international IFOAM scientific congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 2000.

As a result of CTA’s involvement in the current study through the funding of six case studies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, CTA will also co-organize a conference for the Caribbean and the Latin American countries on Supporting the diversification of exports through the development of organic agriculture.

Although organic agriculture may seem to be a good opportunity for some ACP countries to develop new production methods and access new markets, there is a lack of information on the constraints and potentials that organic production really entails for ACP farmers who want to move in this direction. CTA and its partners need to bring additional support to the dissemination of phytosanitary rules and regulations needed to access the main northern markets, setting up local or regional certification programmes, initiating new or supporting existing capacity building programmes as well as promoting the exchange of information through workshops and seminars.

These information gaps need to be addressed through workshops and study visits, publications and information packages, training programmes, local institutional support and a favourable policy network at national, regional and international levels. The need to develop or strengthen the technical and information capacities of local bodies, e.g. for certification, at the national and regional level is an important issue that also requires urgent attention. To implement all these programmes, CTA develops partnership and networking programmes with a range of stakeholders with the aim to increase the impact of the support provided.

For further information contact:

Postbus 380
6700 AJ Wageningen
Tel. (31-317) 467100
Fax (31-317) 460067
Email: [email protected]

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page