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New U.S. - Japan Organic Equivalency Arrangement

The United States has entered into an equivalency arrangement with Japan that was effective January 1, 2014.  The scope of the arrangement is country to country, meaning that it only applies to products grown, processed, or packaged within the boundaries of those two countries. What does this mean for OCIA operations?

U.S. operators certified by OCIA International have two options for their products to reach Japan: the U.S. – Japan Organic Equivalency Arrangement or full JAS certification. 

As this agreement is between two countries, operators outside of the U.S. (e.g. Mexico, Canada) who want to sell product into Japan directly are not covered by this agreement. Full JAS certification is needed to sell products to Japan if they will be shipped directly to Japan (including if product is sold via a U.S.-based broker).

U.S. – Japan Organic Equivalency Arrangement

*There are no critical variances with this agreement. This means there are no longer any inputs or materials that U.S. operators must avoid using if they want to sell product into Japan.

*Under this arrangement, the U.S. operator may not apply the JAS seal unless they contract with a JAS-certified importer. If not contracting with a JAS-certified importer, the seal can only be applied by such an importer when the product arrives in Japan.

*Alcoholic beverages, meat, dairy, and textiles are not subject to this agreement. See Full JAS Certification below.

*Ingredients that will be processed and shipped to Japan by a U.S. operator need only be certified to the National Organic Program (NOP) or other standards as applicable to U.S. equivalency agreements. 

Examples:
If a U.S. coffee roaster buys green coffee from Guatemala and intends to ship the roasted coffee to Japan, the Guatemalan grower does not need to be certified to full JAS; NOP certification is adequate.

If a U.S. processor buys oats from Canada for a processed product to be shipped to Japan, the oats only need to be certified to the Canada Organic Regime (COR) with the U.S. –Canada Equivalency Arrangement. Since it is being processed in the U.S. and then shipped to Japan, full JAS certification is not required of the Canadian operator. 

*It is highly recommended that OCIA operators communicate with their buyers to verify what is needed to export the product to Japan, whether the equivalency is sufficient or if full JAS certified is needed.

Full JAS Certification

*OCIA International (through OCIA Japan) will continue to offer full JAS certification to all operators, including to those in the United States.

*U.S. operators may choose to obtain full JAS certification, so they are able to apply the JAS seal to their own product, without needing to be contracting with a JAS-approved importer.

Products excluded from the agreement

*If U.S. operators want to sell alcoholic beverages, meat, dairy, and textiles to Japan, the products must be certified to the NOP standards; these products cannot be labeled with the JAS organic seal by OCIA operators.

*Japanese operations seeking to sell these products into the U.S. (e.g. sake) must be certified to the NOP.  Ingredients produced under the equivalency arrangement may be used in such products. 

Other Items of Note

*A U.S. processor can purchase JAS certified ingredients/products imported into the U.S. from Japan under the U.S. – Japan Equivalency Arrangement to use in their NOP certified products. They must maintain documentation to show the product is JAS certified.

*A Japanese operator who wishes to sell product into Canada must be certified to the full NOP with U.S. –Canada equivalency arrangement or full COR certification.

The National Organic Program website has complete information including Q&As, labeling requirements, and more at http://tinyurl.com/US-Japan

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