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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is PGS?

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasize the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers and operate outside the frame of third party certification.

As per IFOAM (2008) definition "Participatory Guarantee Systems are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange”.

 

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How PGS differs from third party certification?

As the name indicates the PGS is a participatory approach, wherein farmers living in similar geographical area (in the same vicinity of close-by villages) inspect and verify each other’s process and confirms the adoption of PGS standards, while third party certification (TPC) system is based on verification of process by an independent third party. PGS being participatory does not require any third party and is low cost, while third party certification is cost intensive, targeted for processed products export and is generally unaffordable by small and marginal farmers.

PGS guarantee system are locally focused and are ideal for local and domestic markets, while TPC systems are meant for taking the processed produce as per NPOP in international markets.

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How PGS-India standards are different from National Standards of Organic Production (NSOP) of NPOP?

PGS-India standards are the same as that of NSOP under NPOP. Any amendment of modification in NSOP is deemed to have been incorporated in PGS-India standards. For interpretation of any part or section of PGS-India standards NSOP must be referred.

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What are advantages of PGS over third party certification?

Important advantages of PGS-India over third party certification system are as follows:

  • The procedures are simple; documents are basic and use the local language understandable to farmers.
  • All the members are local and known to each other. Being themselves practicing organic farmers have high degree of understanding on day-to-day knowledge or acquaintance of the farm.
  • Peer appraisers are among the group and live in the same village, therefore have better access to surveillance
  • Peer appraisal instead of third party inspections reduces cost
  • Mutual recognition and support between Regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
  • Empowers farmers with increased capacity building
  • Bring consumers to the farm without the need of middleman
  • Unlike grower group certification system of third party, PGS offer every farmer with individual certificate and each farmer is free to market its own produce independent of group.
  • Consumers and buyers are often involved in production and verification process
  • Random residue testing at regular intervals ensures the integrity, quality assurance and increases the trust.

 

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What are limitations of PGS?

PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organize and perform as a group within the village or in close-by villages with continuous territory and is applicable on, on-farm activities comprising of crop production, processing and livestock rearing (including bee keeping) and off-farm processing of their direct products under their supervision.

Group of farmers having less than 5 members are not covered under PGS they have to opt for Individual certification under PGS-India programme.

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Does PGS-India programe is a Government approved certification system?

Yes PGS-India program is a Government program being operated by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under National Project on Organic Farming(NCOF - PGS Secretariat).

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How PGS-India program is different from other PGS programs being operated in other countries?

Although PGS-India program is also based on the IFOAM’s fundamental guiding principles of participation, shared vision, trust, transparency and horizontality but it differs from all other forms in respect of its institutional structure and national networking. Institutional surveillance and random residue testing by the Government is an added component which further strengthens the trust of consumers in its reliability.

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How PGS-India program is different from an NGO based PGS of PGSOIC?

PGS program run by PGSOIC is a similar guarantee system, but is operated by a group of NGOs. It is not Government approved guarantee system and can be best referred to as private labeling initiative.

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Can PGS-India certified products be exported to other countries?

PGS-India certification program is applicable for local and domestic market. PGS certified products cannot be exported to other countries as organic but can be exported as conventional to get premium price if available.

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Can an individual farmer get PGS certification?

Yes, individual farmer can be certified under PGS-India program. But, Individual producer registration is an interim arrangement and the producer must initiate efforts to bring in other members from the village community to form the group in due course (maximum 2 years) and transform individual status to group status. In case if an individual farmer is unable to form a group even after 2 years, then Regional Council will attach the farmers with the nearest group.

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Does farmer groups can be trusted for their self declared process

Yes, In PGS-India system it is a group of producers which collectively certify their produce based on each others’ verification. This assessment system is further endorsed by an institutional system (RC) supported by monitoring of Nationwide Government system.

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Whether consumers, traders or other members away from the PGS local group can participate in certification process?

Yes, they can participate in peer appraisal and decision making (not mandatory). PGS-India provides for their participation to increase the trust.

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How can I join PGS-India program?

One can join PGS-India program as Individual farmer or as PGS-India local group by making a new group of at least 5 members belonging to same or close-by villages, or through Large Area Certification. In case of Large Area Certification numbers of isolated villages in groups are certified as a whole.

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How can I make a PGS-India local group?

To make a PGS-India local group, organize at least 5 members living in the same or close by villages into a group. Fill Annexure I-Application form, Annexure II farm history sheet and Annexure III farmers pledge for each member. Once these documents are ready for each member and members have agreed to follow PGS-India standards, and then fill LG application form, agreement form and terms of reference. Submit all copies duly signed in hard copies to Regional Council. In case if group can fill application on-line then fill all above formats in soft in PGS-India ( web portal ) program and provide only LG application form, agreement and ToR in hard copies also to RC. Get your group endorsed by any local authority or by any other existing local group. On receipt of documents and endorsement, RC shall grant registration to the Local Group.

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What are minimum requirements for a local group to join PGS-India?
  • A Local group must comprise of minimum 5 members
  • All the members should be living in the same or in close by villages
  • All the members are having similar farming practices
  • Land holding of one member of the group must not exceed one third of total groups land holding
  • Willing to work together in group
  • At least one member is well aware of PGS-India standards, organic methods of cultivation and PGS operational procedures or have undergone necessary training organized by RC or PGS-India secretariat.
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Is there any land holding ceiling of individual members in PGS-India program?

Yes, Land holding of one member of the group must not exceed one third of total groups land holding

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What are minimum documentation requirements by a farmer to join PGS- India local group?

Each group member need to provide following documents in hard copy, duly signed:

  • Application form
  • Farm history sheet
  • Farmers pledge
  • Mobile number and Aadhar number are mandatory for filling of application.
  • Bank account details are optional for filling of application.
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Can landless farmers having only cattle or poultry join crop production PGS-India local group?

No, but landless farmers can opt for Livestock certification if they are having adequate facilities for livestock management. In such cases the group generally should be of similar type of farmers.

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Does taking a pledge is a must in PGS-India and what is its significance?

Yes it is mandatory and is a documented evidence of commitment for organic.

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When PGS-India program is a local group based guarantee system, then why institutional networking is required?

Institutional networking has been done to give the program a National structure with wider acceptability and national recognition. National networking with multilevel surveillance system (on the cost of program organizers i.e. Government) adds further to reliability and trust

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Whether part conversion and parallel production is allowed in PGS-India program?

Although PGS-India philosophy do not promote part conversion or parallel production, but this can be adopted in initial years. But all out efforts are needed by the members to bring their entire landholding and livestock to organic in due course of time.

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What is local group and what are its role and responsibilities

Local group is the main functional and decision making body under Participatory Guarantee System. It is a local group of farmers that live in the same village or close by villages and interact regularly with each other.

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What are minimum requirements for registration of Local group with Regional Council?
  • A Local group should comprise of minimum 5 members belonging to same village or close by villages
  • Adequate participation of women farmers shall be ensured.
  • At least few members of the group shall be well versed with the PGS organic guarantee systems or certification system and National Standards of Organic Production (NPOP) or have undergone training on PGS guarantee system.
  • All the members in the group have signed the PGS pledge and group agreement to adhere to the group specific vision, participatory approach and collective responsibility.
  • Have access to PGS documents and preferably have access to computer and internet
  • Registered with Concerned Regional Council and have obtained necessary user ID and password to upload data on PGS website.
  • In case if farmer group is unable to operate on-line system of data up loading then the services can be availed from Regional Council or of any other facilitating agency or local NGO etc.
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What are minimum documentation requirements for a local group for registration with RC
  • Application form, farm history sheet and farmers pledge in respect of each farmer member.
  • LG application form with agreement and ToR duly signed.
  • Endorsement of the group by any other endorsing agency as specified in PGS-India operational manual.

Each group member need to provide following documents in hard copy, duly signed:

  • Application form
  • Farm history sheet
  • Farmers pledge
  • Mobile number and Aadhar number are mandatory for filling of application.
  • Bank account details are optional for filling of application.
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Is it necessary to have computer and internet facilities for a local group for on-line data management?

Although, it is preferred, but not mandatory

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In case where LG do not have access to computer and internet then how data management will be done

LG can avail of such facility from other sources (such as from internet café or may take the help of any facilitating agency) or can request RC to do data uploading on their behalf.

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Can Local Group apply on-line for registration?

Yes LG can apply on-line Through PGS Webportal

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After application submission on-line what documents are also required to be submitted in hard copies to RC?

LG application form with copy of agreement duly executed on non-judicial bond paper and ToR duly signed on each page is required to be submitted in hard copies also to the RC.

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Why endorsement of LG is needed for registration?

Endorsement of the new Local Group is a mandatory requirement for LG registration. This is to ensure that only genuine and trustworthy groups join the PGS-India program.

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How certification process is carried by Local group?
  • Follow the PGS guidelines on group meetings, key field trainings and knowledge sharing.
  • Keep vigil on neighboring farmer’s farms and if some non-compliances are noticed then inform other group members during group meetings
  • Ensure timely organization of training programs in collaboration with RC.
  • Invite practicing organic farmers and other local experts for problem solving in management issues such as in nutrient management, pest management etc. during key trainings and group meetings.
  • Maintain attendance register for group meeting and key field trainings
  • If member farmers are using or propose to use off-farm inputs then verify their organic status, discuss in group meetings and endorse or prohibit their use. Use of such inputs without group’s approval shall be treated as non- compliance.
  • Chalk out peer appraisal schedule and constitute peer appraisal groups. At least one member in the appraisal team must be literate and well versed in filling the appraisal forms.
  • Reciprocal review between two member group farms is not allowed (i.e. A reviews the B and B reviews A).
  • Invite other group peer reviewers or representatives of consumers/ traders or local State Agriculture Department officer as invited member of the peer group (but their participation is not mandatory). This may increase the trust and credibility of the group Guarantee.
  • Complete peer review of all the farms at least once in each season. Ensure that all farms have been reviewed objectively.
  • Discuss review reports in the meetings and decide upon the organic status of each farm one by one.
  • Segregate farmers who have fulfilled all the requirements and consider them for grant of certificate
  • Discuss about the non-complying farmers and depending upon the nature and gravity of non-compliances issue sanctions.
  • Appraisal paper work is checked for completeness and a local Group Summary Worksheet is prepared.
  • Group or certification committee decides on certification and declares certification status of each group member.
  • Enter all details on-line in PGS website and send signed copy of the summary worksheet to the RC. Alternatively send all details in hard copy along with signed copy of summary sheet to RC for uploading the data into PGS website.
  • Regional Council check details provided in hard copy or on-line. On being satisfied, grants necessary approval on-line.
  • LG prints certificate from PGS website and distribute to individual farmers. Alternatively LG requests RC to print the certificates and send to Group leader for distribution.
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After application for registration which date shall be taken as cut-off date for start of conversion period?

Date of registration granted by the RC shall be taken as the start date of conversion.

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Whether a farmer having crop production under organic and veterinary under conventional system can continue in PGS-India program

Yes he can continue, but his livestock shall not be considered for certification

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In cases where PGS-India Guidelines and standards are not clear and require further clarification then who will provide the details?

National Standards for Organic production (NSOP) under NPOP shall be referred.

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In cases where no prohibited substances have been used by the group from past several years and this can be verified from many reliable sources then what will be the minimum period for conversion?

In such cases the conversion period can be reduced as per the objective decision of the RC.

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Whether hybrid seeds or high yielding variety seeds can be used in PGS- India organic farming systems?

Yes hybrid and high yielding varieties can be used. But genetically modified seeds cannot be used.

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Whether chemically untreated conventional seeds can be used without any restriction?

Yes conventional chemically untreated seeds can be used in cases where organically grown seeds are not available.

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Does any input allowed under NPOP and has been approved for use in certified organic farming by any accredited agency under NPOP can be used in PGS-India program?

Yes (To be finalized in next NEC)

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Whether mineral grade potash can be used in PGS-India organic farming system?

Water soluble minerals are not allowed. Chlorides of potash are also not allowed.

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Whether dung or urine from on-farm cattle being fed with organic fodder but also fed with purchased conventional feed can be used for making manure

Yes can be used after proper decomposition

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In cases of purchased inputs where it is not approved under NPOP and the Local group is not able to ascertain its organic compatibility, then who will provide the guidance

In all such cases consult Zonal councils or PGS-India Secretariat.

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What is minimum eligibility for grant of PGS-Green certificate?

Crop grown after grant of registration to LG by RC can be granted with PGS- Green certificate provided all standard requirements are fully met.

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For getting PGS-Green certificate is there any relaxation in PGS-standards

PGS-Green is not a diluted version of organic, it is granted to the same system during the in-conversion period.

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Is it necessary for a group to meet at least six times a year and each member to participate in at least 3 such meetings?

Yes it is mandatory

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What happens if any group and/or its member fail in this requirement?

It becomes minor non-compliance. Continuous minor non-compliance can become major non-compliance and can affect the certification status of the group.

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What is the importance of key trainings and is it necessary to have such trainings in a year?

Key trainings are technology sharing events and are needed for continuous knowledge up-gradation of group members.

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What is the minimum requirement of a member to become peer appraiser?

Any LG member can become peer appraiser. He only needs to be well versed with the PGS-India standards and peer appraisal process.

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Is it mandatory for each member to participate in peer appraisals?

It will be an ideal situation if each and every member of the group participate in peer appraisals, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

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Can non-group members, (such as members of other groups, state Government officers, representatives of traders and consumers) be included in peer appraisals?

Yes they can participate on the request of LG or RC, but their participation is not mandatory.

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Is it necessary to conduct peer appraisal in the presence of the member himself or any of its family members?

Yes presence of farmer member or his family member is must during the peer appraisal.

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In case if a member is not making himself/ herself or family member available intentionally for peer appraisal, then what course of action to be taken?

Three chances can be given to the member for making himself or his family member available at the time of peer appraisal. If members do not heed the request then the name of the members shall be deleted from the list of active members and no peer appraisal need to be done for such member. This also needs to be brought into the notice of the RC to avoid appeal.

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What is the procedure for selection of peer appraisers?

Peer appraisers need to be selected from among the group members and be selected in such a way that reciprocal appraisal do not occur. Peer appraisers also need to be rotated for appraisal of different members. Means every year the composition of peer appraisal team for each member keep on changing.

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Is it necessary to keep on changing peer appraisers for fair assessment?

Yes it is necessary and forms a pillar of trust.

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Is it necessary for LG to inform RC well in advance about their peer appraisal plan?

Yes RC need to be informed well in advance about the peer appraisal program, so that it can decide for participation in few of them or can undertake surveillance on methodology of peer appraisal adopted the local group.

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What documents peer appraisers need to carry at the time of peer appraisal?

Last peer appraisal copy

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How peer appraisals are conducted?

Peer appraisals are conducted by physical verification of all the fields, physical verification of farm facilities and livestock, discussion with farmer member and checking of inputs used. Crop condition, presence of insects (pests and beneficial insects), soil structure, irrigation systems etc. should also be verified.

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What shall be the frequency of peer appraisals?

Peer appraisals should be done for every growing season. In rain fed situations where there is only one crop there will be one peer appraisal. If two crops are taken then two appraisals need to be done and if three crops are taken then three appraisals are to be done.

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In permanent / perennial crops such as plantations (tea, fruit orchards, coconut) what will be the frequency of peer appraisals

In perennial crops if no intercrops are taken then only one peer appraisal is to be done in one year

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If intercrops are being taken for more than once a year in plantation crops, then what will be the frequency of peer appraisals?

If intercrops are taken then peer appraisal need to be done according to the number of intercropping seasons.

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Is it necessary for the peer appraisers to give the decision about the compliance of standards and status of farmer at the end of the appraisal?

Yes it is always desirable to recommend the status of farmer, there it self and in the presence of the inspected farmer or his family member.

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What will be the scenario, if farmer or its family member refuses to sign the peer appraisal or refuses to accept the outcome of the peer appraisal?

In such cases peer appraisal shall record the same on the appraisal sheet and bring it to the notice of the group leader.

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How many times a year, LG Summary sheets are to be filled and submitted to the RC

It depends upon the cropping season and one summary sheet is to be prepared for every cropping season.

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In case if a group fails to submit the LG Summary sheet in time, then what will be the scenario?

It becomes non-compliance and creates doubt about the commitment of the group. If no Summary sheet is submitted for one full year or two consecutive seasons then it is presumed that group is not active and not functioning as per the norms of PGS-India program and group gets suspended.

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Is it necessary for all the group members to be present while filling LG Summary sheet and deciding the status of its members?

Normally all the group members are required to be present when decisions are made. But in case of large groups the designated certification team can take decisions on behalf of the group.

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Is it necessary for certification team to accept the recommendations of peer appraisers?

No it is not necessary. Certification team need to take objective decision based upon the facts recorded in the peer appraisal, independent surveillance, complaints and its own assessment.

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If certification team or group does not agree with the findings of peer appraisal team then what will be the future course of action?

In case where certification team differs with the decision of peer appraisers, then the reasons for changing the decision must be recorded and communicated to the farmer member and peer appraisers. All such cases should also be brought to the notice of full group body before being sent to RC.

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Does LG summary sheet can be submitted in part e.g. in respect of few farmers on one occasion and remaining farmer on other occasion?

Generally LG summary sheet is to be sent once in every season for all the farmer members. Summary sheet in parts should be avoided.

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What is the procedure for on-farm and off-farm input approval?

Group and certification team need to ensure that all on-farm inputs are approved if no prohibited substance were used in their making.

Same is also to be ascertained in case of purchased inputs, such as of composts, FYM or vermicompost etc.

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If a member fulfills all standard requirements for crop production but fails in animal/ veterinary issue, then what will be the status of its crops?

His crops can be certified under PGS-India, but veterinary products shall not be certified.

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While deciding on each member status, can a farmer has two status, i.e. partly PGS-Green and partly PGS-Organic

Generally a farmer who has brought his particular land holding at one time be granted with one status. Means if a farmer has brought 10 acres at a time under PGS-India program and has qualified for certification in 5 acres and not qualified in remaining 5 acre, then he cannot be certified and he shall remain not-qualified for its entire land holding.

But if a member has brought his land holdings which are distinctly separated at two different occasions under organic then he can be granted two statuses for his two holdings.

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Can a group decide on member’s status in more than one meeting?

Yes it can be done, but LG summary sheet need to be sent only once for one season.

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In cases where RC returns the decision with certain observations, then how to proceed with the situation?

LG can study the objections and undertakes necessary correction. If needed, it can also undertake another peer appraisal in respect of any particular member and revise decision. In all such cases a revised LG summary sheet need to be submitted to RC.

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Who is the appellate authority if there is some disagreement on PGS procedures among the LG group members?

RC is the appellate authority.

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In case if LG does not get decision approval from RC within 15 days of LG summary sheet decision, then whom to appeal?

In such cases LG can appeal to concerned Zonal Council

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If many LGs under one RC are not happy with the functioning of RC then can they make their own RC? If yes then what is the procedure.

Yes they can make their own RC as per the procedure.

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Can LGs be transferred from one RC to another RC?

Yes LGs can be transferred from one RC to another. For this, application needs to be made to PGS Secretariat along with reasons and justification.

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In cases where an ICS is converging to PGS from third party certification, what will be the procedure for their registration and what will be their status?

They also need to provide all the documents needed to form a LG and need to apply in prescribed formats along with last three years scope certificates. Their certification status under third party shall continue as it is provided there is no break in continuity. Means such ICS need to get themselves registered under any RC well before the expiry of validity of their scope certificate.

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What does LAC stands for?

Its large contiguous traditional / default organic areas consisting of few number of entire villages, it may include entire Taluk/District which is covered in under PGS-India certification system. It not includes wild forest areas, but if the villages covered under this certification process if it is having village level small forest area it can be included in LAC.

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Who qualifies for inclusion under LAC?

One village comprising of all the farmers will be treated as one group. To qualify for large area certification all the farming members of the village and the large area must comply to PGS-India organic standards. Individual farmers and processing and handling units under group or stand alone units away from the groups shall not be eligible for certification under this category, even though they may be located within the same geographical area.

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What is the procedure for LAC registration?

Register the area with individual village wise documents to authorized RC. RCs authorized for large area certification shall be authorized to register such area and undertake certification process.

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Is there any fees decided for LAC?

Large area certification are paid services and necessary fee shall be paid by the users as per the decision of NEC as revised from time to time and/ or as agreed between RCs and LGs and other operators.

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Who will ensure that all the growers undertake PGS pledge and sign the pledge?

Gram Panchayat/ Village council will ensure that all the growers undertake PGS pledge and sign the pledge. Once all the farmers sign the pledge, it need to be endorsed by the Gram Panchayat and Gram Panchayat may pass a resolution for adopting and allowing only organic farming within their geographical limits.

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What is Certification process by Village council/ Gram panchyat?
  • Define the area to be brought under certification and prepare maps.
  • Prepare farmer-wise documentation, i.e. Name and family details of farmer, land details, livestock details, individual farmers land location in the map. All farmers will be taken into account and the entire defined area to be covered.
  • Create village-wise group keeping one village one group concept
  • Obtain PGS-India application form and PGS pledge from all the farmers
  • Ensure that there is no synthetic input use history in the entire defined area at least for last 3 years and also that no licenses have been issued for sale of synthetic inputs.
  • Request the State Government to issue necessary documents of the area being synthetic input usage free from last 3 years
  • Make an application to the Regional Council with copy of all the above papers for registration. Applications to be made village-wise/ Gram Panchayat-wise
  • Submit applications from all Gram Panchayats and villages from the defined area. Only one RC to be selected for one area.
  • Undertake first peer appraisal through local farmers peer committee in each village and fill consolidated peer appraisal form.
  • Submit all details to the concerned Regional Council and Zonal Council
  • Upload required data into PGS-India portal
  • Facilitate PGS-NEC appointed committee for inspection and verification of the traditional organic status and for recommendation on conversion status.
  • On receipt of organic certification the village can undertake marketing of certified organic produce under one umbrella and under one brand name.
  • Transaction certificates for sale can be generated from PGS portal under the common village name. Certificates and TCs in large area certification will be issued village group-wise. Individual farmers and processing units shall not qualify under large area certification.
  • For renewal of certification every year at least one peer appraisal is done involving all the farmers and consolidated peer appraisal sheet, village-wise is prepared and submitted to the Regional Council
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What is Certification process by Regional Council?
  • RC receives the application from all the Gram Panchayats/ villages.
  • Verifies the authenticity and completeness of the documents
  • Participate in some village’s peer appraisal (at least 20% of one particular area)
  • Participate in PGS-NEC committee verification programme and be part of the decision making process.
  • On receipt of recommendation of the committee and on completion of first peer appraisal decide on the certification status of the area and recommend for the approval of PGS-NEC.
  • On receipt of PGS-NEC approval, grant certification to the entire area with list of villages, their area, livestock and number of farmers/ producers.
  • Subsequent renewal of certification is granted on receipt of annual peer appraisal and random physical verification by RC. RC need to ensure that each and every village is physically inspected at least once in two years for standard compliance assessment.
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Role of State Govt. for conversion of LAC to PGS India Organic?

State role is in Verification, documentation of area to be covered under LAC and Create peer appraisal committees from among the farmers from the village. At least one peer appraisal committee will be constituted in each village for annual peer appraisals for submission to RC. Complete first peer appraisal and submit peer appraisal summary sheet to RC. State Govt. will also facilitate PGS-NEC appointed verification committee visit for ensuring that the defined area is organic since last 3 years.

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What is the Channel of authorization to declare LAC to PGS India Organic?

ZC/ RC on verification of documents, peer appraisal submitted by village peer appraisers and report of verification committee on reduction of conversion period can recommend declaration of the area as organic to PGS-NEC.  PGS-NEC after thorough assessment can declare the entire area as organic.

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Certificates will be issued to individual farmers under LAC?

No, in large area certification certificates and TCs shall be issued to the entire village group and not to individual farmers. Individual farmers and processing units shall not qualify under large area certification. Individual farmers and processing and handling units under group or stand alone units away from the groups shall not be eligible for certification under this category, even though they may be located within the same geographical area.

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What is the procedure to extend/renew of certification?

For continuation of organic status each and every village in the region needs to undertake at least one peer appraisal annually. The annual peer appraisal report will be submitted to the concerned ZC/ Regional Council for extension/ renewal of certification.

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Does livestock require any compliance of standards to be followed?

Under this certification programme all the farmers and their farming operations (including livestock) must be complying to PGS-India organic standards.

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Does default by single farmer (non-compliance ) can lead to cancellation of certification?

Yes, Even a single default by one farmer can result into cancellation of organic status of the entire village. Repeated defaults in a village or in many villages may result in cancellation of certification of the entire geographic boundary (such as wholeblock).