The Soil Association revealed it was targeting a shake-up of the organic certification system, so that hundreds of small bakery companies currently missing out on organic certification could gain access to the scheme, reports Andrew Williams.

Jim Twine, commercial director at the The Soil Association, stated the organic body’s aims at an IFE07 seminar, in reply to an audience member who said that many small companies were effectively priced out of organic accreditation due to the costs involved.

He told British Baker that the Soil Association intends to press Defra and the EU - which sets the standards for organic accreditation - for graded levels of certification to allow small-scale firms a bite of the organic cherry.

At present, in order to market or sell a product as organic within Europe, you need to be certified, which entails a mandatory annual inspection. Currently accreditation costs a minimum of £425, but the Association hopes to bring the cost down to around £200-250, if it succeeds in lobbying for a change in the current scheme. Ideally, he said accreditation for micro-sized firms would be free of charge.

He emphasised that any change would be likely to take a number of years to make its way through the European administration, but that work was under way at the Association to put together a strong case to present to government.

"I can assure you we’re not profiteering from people," stated Twine. "But there are lots of people that are doing fantastic things at a grass roots level, where organic has its roots, that feel disenfranchised from the whole system. For them, the cost of certification would wipe out any benefit.

"We would like to see a system developed that is more appropriate to people’s size and scale. This would potentially bring down the cost and include a lot more people within the certification system. That is something that we feel very strongly about in the organisation.

"We are working on a number of projects that would - we hope - give us the evidence to put a really strong case to Defra and the European Commission. This would, hopefully, in time, lead to something appropriate for the size, scale and the level of risk that is associated with small businesses."

He added that the Association hopes to put a proposal in place within the next financial year.