What is ECOCERT for Tea Importing?
Starting a tea business in a country is quite promising, no doubt, but in order for that business to flourish, you’ll need a vast variety of tea in your store. Tea importing is the ultimate solution to expand your tea business. You can import myriads of high-quality tea varieties and leave your customers wanting more. However, there are certain certifications that you need to get before starting your tea business and one such certification is ECOCERT. In this article, we are going to unleash everything you need to know about ECOCERT and why it is mandatory for tea importing.
What is ECOCERT?
Originally a French certification company, ECOCERT was founded in 1991 and since then it has been giving organic certifications to a wide range of industries. It started as a certification and inspection body for organic agriculture products. However, later on, it started giving certifications for food products, cosmetics, perfumes, and beverages including tea, cosmetics, textiles, and detergents.
Currently, this certification company is trading in more than 130 countries which makes it one of the largest organic certification organizations all around the globe. ECOCERT also ensures that all the ingredients used in the manufacturing of your products come from renewable resources.
If your product passes this bar, it will be considered an environmentally-friendly product. To ensure that your tea products are manufactured through environmentally-friendly processes, ECOCERT ensures that your product does not contain:
- GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)
- Synthetic dyes and perfumes
- PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)
- Ingredients derived from animals (unless they produce the ingredients naturally, such as honey, milk, etc.)
In order to get your hands on the ECOCERT certification, the nature of your packaging must be recyclable and biodegradable.
ECOCERT – The Basic Principles
The organic certification of ECOCERT has three important principles that you need to abide by to import tea into the country.
- ECOCERT verifies the manufacturing process of the tea plants and the origin of each ingredient present in the tea samples. According to this certification, your imported tea must contain 95% natural ingredients.
- ECOCERT acknowledges the utilization of ingredients that come from organic farming. For instance, in the case of tea, 95% of the ingredients should be plant-based, whereas 10% of the total ingredients must come from organic farming.
- ECOCERT suggests you clearly inform your consumers about the ingredients used to make your tea. Therefore, all the ingredients must be clearly stated.
If you want an ECOCERT logo on your imported tea products, you need to certify them by ECOCERT. The name and logo of ECOCERT are not only protected trademarks but also internationally registered.
What kind of certifications are provided by ECOCERT?
There are two kinds of certifications that ECOCERT provides; Natural Certification and Natural and Organic Certification.
- Natural Certification: It is the certification that verifies that 50% of the ingredients in your imported tea products are plant-based, whereas 5% of the total ingredients must come from organic farming.
- Natural and Organic Certification: It is the certification that verifies that 95% of the ingredients in your imported tea products are plant-based, whereas 10% of the total ingredients must come from organic farming.
In each certification, there must be no more than 5% use of synthetic ingredients and there must be an absence of the compounds mentioned above.
In case your products are all organic, ECOCERT provides certification of that as well. In that case, 100% of your ingredients must be plant-based, whereas 95% of the total ingredients must be produced organically.
What is the certification process at ECOCERT?
In order to get ECOCERT certification for tea importing, you’ll need to go through five simple steps. They are listed as follows:
Step 1: Time to make a request
In the first step, you ask for your industry’s logo by making a request at the ECOCERT platform. The advisors of ECOCERT will provide you with a bunch of ideas for logos that deem the most suitable for your industry and needs.
Step 2: A contract is signed between the two parties
In the next step, the ECOCERT team will provide you with a contract consisting of their terms and conditions. Once you sign this contract, you will form a key engagement with ECOCERT and all the information will become transparent to both parties involved.
Step 3: Initial audit will be put in place
After signing a contract, the ECOCERT auditors will pay a visit to your site to check whether you’re complying with the regulations mentioned in the contract. The auditors will also duly check your products to see whether they follow the ECOCERT standards or not and provide a report.
Step 4: Review your certification file
The report provided by the ECOCERT auditors will be thoroughly inspected by the certification officers of ECOCERT. After reviewing the report, the certification officers will come up with a decision of granting you a certification.
Step 5: Receive your certification
The ECOCERT team will issue your certificate. Once you get the certification, you are free to display your logo on your brand and let the world know that all your imported tea products are natural, organic, or natural and organic.
What kind of certification is required when you’re importing from Japan?
ECOCERT has a lot of certifications that work under the same standards and regulations as ECOCERT and one such certification is the Japanese Agriculture Standard (JAS). If you’re importing tea from Japan, make sure you import it from farms that have been certified by JAS. The certified farm will contain the logo and name devised by JAS. Thus, when you import your tea products from such farms, you can easily get ECOCERT certification to use the tea products in your own country.
How can farms in Japan acquire JAS Certification?
As mentioned earlier, you will only be able to sell and consume your tea products in your given country if you import the products from a certified farm in Japan. If you like specific tea products from an uncertified farm in Japan, the farm will need to get JAS certified because only then, you will be able to improve the reliability and efficiency of your business. Now, in order to get JAS certification, the farms need to get involved and follow the mentioned below steps:
- An application must be submitted to the Minister of MAFF (Division of Labeling Standards, Food Safety, and Consumer Affairs Bureau). Moreover, a JAS agreement will be signed between the two parties.
- The manager who wants the certification and the manager who’s going to inspect the farm will have to attend a JAS seminar organized by MAFF. Sometimes, the managers can attend this seminar online.
- The manager will need to specify the Organic Management Plan, and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in order for the grading manager to grade the farm.
- After specifying the plan and procedure, the grading manager will visit the farm and inspect the products to implement a grading system.
- Once the production manager fulfills all the requirements, he or she will get the JAS Certificate.
The production manager of your chosen Japanese farm will receive the certificate along with the “JAS mark” after a few days of inspection.
JAS Certification doesn’t have an expiry date, it remains valid throughout. However, the certification must be renewed every year according to the Japanese economic year i.e., April 1st to March 31st. The certified JAS operators must summarize the information of the previous year and present it to the inspection body by June 30th.
The production managers will not be able to recertify if this information is not provided on time. Therefore, if you want to keep importing certified products from Japan, let the production managers of your chosen farm know the necessary rules and regulations to get and remain JAS certified.
What are the fees for JAS Certification?
There are three kinds of fees that the production managers of your chosen Japanese farm have to incur if they want a JAS certification. These fees are; Application fee, Site Inspection fee, and Judgment fee.
The certifying bodies take US$550/day and since the application remains in process for two days, the application fee becomes US$550 x 2 = US$1,100. Then comes the site inspection fee. The inspection of the site takes about 8 days which means that the inspection fee is US$550 x 8 = US$4,400. The
Judgment of the certifying bodies takes about one which means that the fees come out to be US$550.
It means that the total cost incurred for JAS Certification is US$6,050.
Once your chosen farm pays the certification fees and goes through all the processes of certification, it will be certified by JAS and you will be able to import certified products from that particular farm.
Will the importers still need to require ECOCERT Certification if they import JAS Certified products?
JAS certification is for the products that are to be exported from Japan to European countries. The importer can use and consume those products on a small scale. However, if an importer wants to use those products on a large scale, say, for running a tea business, he or she will also need to acquire ECOCERT certification and get a logo for your brand.
ECOCERT Certification – An Important Asset for your Organization
ECOCERT certification can play a quite crucial part in your organization. All the processes undertaken by the ECOCERT team of auditors and certification officers ensure that all your activities and tea products comply with your chosen specifications. ECOCERT certification will allow your organization to:
- Effectively communicate regarding the commitment of your brand along with authenticity
- Build an atmosphere of trust with your consumers and stakeholders
- Improve your organization’s reliability and efficiency
- Readily access export or new national markets
In today’s world, the tea industry is booming and if you have the finest quality tea, you’ll certainly make your mark in this world. However, if you want to attract a significant number of consumers, you’ll need to let them know that all your tea products are organic or natural, or both. One way to ensure that is through ECOCERT certification. To get this certification, you will need to abide by all its standards and regulations. However, if you’re importing from Japan, make sure that you’re importing from a JAS-certified farm.
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