Certification is open to farmer groups. There is a separate system under the PGS for managing the organic integrity of the certified products along the whole value chain to include processors, traders and retailers. This system is managed by the Coordination Group and is described in a separate document "PGS certification for non-farmer operators". Obtaining certification also allows the use to the PGS seal.
The general process for obtaining PGS certification for farmers is as follows:
Step1: Individual farmer contacts a Producer Group to join. The farmer must attend training on the PGS organic standards and then sign a Farmer's Pledge (see Annex 5) that s/he is willing to follow these standards and the PGS certification procedures. Together with the pledge the farmer will also complete and submit to the Inter-Group a Farm Management Plan (FMP) where they are held on file. The FMP is given in Annex 6.
Step 2: The Inter-Group will verify that the FMP is completed sufficiently and then will inform the Producer Group to carry out the peer review.
Step 3: The farmer and the farm are inspected by other members of their Producer Group. A minimum of three ‘peer inspectors’ is required to be at the inspection (but groups may specify more) - the inspectors must be present at the inspection and they all sign the inspection checklist form.
To ensure consistency among the inspections, the PGS group inspection checklist must to be used. This Checklist is given in Annex 7.
Inspections include both physical checks of the farm (fields, storage, processing area, farm house, etc.) and a review of the documentation the farmer is required to keep. The PGS Peer Inspectors Manual gives more information on the inspection process.
Questions will be asked to test that the farmer understands the PGS organic standards s/he is agreeing to.
During the inspection soil and water samples will be taken by the inspectors. A farmer will be exempted from such tests if s/he already has had tests done in last 12 months or if the farmer has a Safe Vegetable Certificate.
One of the inspectors will be responsible for asking the questions in the Peer Inspection Checklist and at the end of the inspection, this inspector will read the inspection report to the farmer and any comments by the farmer will be added to the report. The report will then be signed by the farmer and all inspectors present during the inspection.
Step 4: Based on the Inspection Checklist reports and other reports (e.g., the soil and water tests), as well as a check on the Farmer Pledges and FMP’s the decision is made by the Inter-Group Certification Committee on the certification status of the farm. The decision is sent to the Coordination Group including the actions required to address non-compliance issues. See Section 13 for more details on this process.
Step 5: The Coordination Group enters summary information for each farmer into the database and sends a paper certificate to the farmer that is valid for 1 year from the date of the inspection visit to the farm. Each farmer's certificate has an individual identification number (ID number) that includes codes for both the farmer and the Inter-Group.
Step 6: Farms will be re-inspected each year. The Inter Group Certification Manager will manage the re-inspection process. Prior to the inspection the farmers will update their FMP and check their records (inputs used and sales).
Step 7: The inspection, decision-making and approval process follows steps 3 -5 shown above.
A small percentage of farms will be randomly selected for pesticide residue testing on the crops grown.
Pesticide residue testing is managed by the Coordination Group but it is the Inter-Group responsibility to take actions if required.
Step 8: Each year, the Inter-Group Certification Manager will randomly select 10% of the inspection reports and Inter-Group members will re-inspect these farms and report their conclusions to the Inter-Group certification committee on the Re-inspection Checklist. The Certification Committee considers these reports and takes a decision to confirm or change the certification status of the farmer. The farms re-inspected are marked in the database.