AB Certification : Organic Farming

Are you looking for high quality food, grown with respect for the environment and animal welfare? AB (Organic Farming) certification is probably already an important criterion in your food choices. But what does this label really mean and what are its implications for producers and consumers? You have here all the keys to understand the added value of AB certification: Organic Agriculture, a guarantee of quality and reliability for organic products.

What is AB certification : Organic Farming?

The AB (Organic Agriculture) certification represents an official label ensuring that agricultural and food products comply with organic farming standards, as defined by European and French legislation. This agricultural approach is committed to excluding the use of synthetic chemicals and GMOs, while promoting the preservation of biodiversity, sustainable management of natural resources and animal welfare.

Awarded by certifying bodies recognized by the authorities, AB certification requires periodic checks with farmers, processors and distributors. It helps to distinguish organic products on the market, thus meeting the requirements of consumers in search of healthy, ecological and natural options.

A wide variety of products can obtain AB certification, including raw or processed agricultural products for human consumption, as well as animal feed, plant reproductive material and seeds. Organic players from EU member countries can use the AB label free of charge, provided that their products comply with Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 and are designed within the EU.

A specific national regulation concerns animal products not covered by the European framework, known as "French specifications".

As food certification, pet food products can also carry the AB certification as long as they contain at least 95% organic agricultural ingredients.

The distinctive AB logo, green and white, makes it easy to identify organic products since 1985 and enjoys wide recognition among French consumers. It can be displayed together with the European organic logo, mandatory on all packaging of prepackaged organic products in the EU since 2010.

These visual markings ensure the quality and traceability of organic products. It builds trust with consumers.

Which organisations offer AB certification ?

To obtain the AB certification, essential to ensure compliance with organic farming standards, it is imperative to turn to a certifying body accredited by the French State. These entities ensure the impartiality, efficiency and skills necessary to authenticate compliance with organic practices at each stage of production. They conduct regular audits and inspections and issue certificates validating the organic conformity of products.

In France, many certifying bodies offer their services, addressing various fields of activity and a wide range of products. The main players are:


A major player in organic certification, Ecocert operates in more than 130 countries and supports the certification of more than 40,000 operators in France. Its expertise extends to agricultural products, food, cosmetics, textiles, detergents, perfumes and organic cleaning articles. In addition, Ecocert offers access to additional labels such as ESR (Equitable, Solidarity, Responsible), Organic Coherence, Organic Solidarity, Nature and Progress or Demeter.

Certipaq Bio

Specializing in organic agricultural and food products, Certipaq Bio certifies more than 6,000 French operators, including fruit and vegetables, cereals, wine, meat, dairy products, eggs, honey, coffee, tea, spices, aromatic and medicinal herbs, food supplements, animal feed and seeds. It also offers additional labels such as Bio Equitable, Bio Partenaire, Bio Sud-Ouest France and Bio Entreprise Durable.

Bureau Veritas Certification

As part of the Bureau Veritas group, this certifier excels in the sectors of agriculture, agri-food, cosmetics, textiles, fair trade, catering, distribution and import, certifying more than 5,000 operators in France. Bureau Veritas Certification also offers complementary certifications such as Bio Solidaire, Bio Equitable, Bio Coherence and Nature and Progress.

Other certifying bodies

Other certifiers focus on specific niches or specific regions in France, such as Agrocert for wines, Control Union for imports, Bureau Alpes Contrôles for mountain products or Certisud for South-West products.

What are the specific AB certification requirements for my industry ?

Obtaining AB certification requires adherence to the fundamental principles of organic farming, adapted to each sector of activity. These principles are governed by European and French legislation, and can be supplemented by specific national or sectoral standards. Here is an overview of the requirements by sector :

Plant production

For plant producers, the essential rules to follow include :

  • Use of certified organic seeds and plant material, or conventional untreated if necessary.  
  • Adoption of crop rotation and promotion of species biodiversity.
  • Soil enrichment with organic matter (compost, manure...) and natural fertilizers allowed.  
  • Prevention and treatment of diseases and pests by authorized natural methods and products.  
  • Observance of conversion periods: two years for annual crops, three years for perennial crops.

Animal production

Requirements for animal production include :

  • Breeding of animals from breeds compatible with organic farming, or conventional non-GMO if necessary.  
  • Feeding of animals with organic products from the holding or other certified sources.  
  • Implementation of animal welfare practices: access to the outdoors, sufficient space, appropriate breeding and transport conditions, limitation of animal density.  
  • Use of natural methods and drugs for prevention and treatment, with limited use of antibiotics.  
  • Compliance with conversion periods: six months for poultry, nine months for pigs, twelve months for ruminants and milk.

Processing and distribution

The following are the rules for processors and distributors :

  • Prefer organic ingredients, or conventional non-GMO with tolerance thresholds for accidental presence.  
  • Use permitted additives, flavourings, processing agents and cleaning products, limiting their use.  
  • Protect the integrity and quality of organic products from cross-contamination or fraudulent substitution.  
  • Ensure impeccable traceability: keeping of tracking records, affixing of regulatory notices and logos, retention of supporting documents.  
  • Observe the rules specific to imports and exports of organic products according to the agreements of the European Union with non-member countries.

In which country is AB certification required ?

The AB certification, a French label dedicated to organic products, is aligned with European standards. It thus enjoys recognition in all the countries of the European Union, constituting the main market for these French products. In 2019, France exported 1.4 billion euros of organic products, 86% of which went to the EU, mainly to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

Some non-EU countries, known as third countries, may also apply for this certification. This is possible thanks to the equivalence agreements established with the EU, promoting the recognition of practices and facilitating trade. To date, thirteen third countries, including Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Republic of North Macedonia, have signed such agreements.

Other non-EU countries that do not have equivalence agreements can nevertheless accept AB certification if they recognise the European organic logo, which is also present on AB certified products. This group includes China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. However, these countries may have additional requirements such as specific import certifications or additional controls.

It is recommended to contact certifying bodies or competent authorities for more details before exporting organic products to these countries.

What are the steps to obtain an AB certification ?

To achieve AB certification, a thorough and transparent process must be followed. This process involves several entities and is broken down into different key stages:

Choose a certifying body

The first step in this journey is to select a certifying body validated by the French authorities. This organization will be responsible for monitoring the compliance of your practices with organic farming standards. There are a variety of certifying bodies in France, specialized in various fields of activity and types of products.

The list of these organizations is available on the Agence Bio website. Your choice must be an organization in line with your sector of activity and your location.

Complete an application for certification

Then, you will need to fill out a certification application form with the chosen organization. This form will collect detailed information about your company, products, processes, suppliers, and customers. You will also be asked to undertake to follow the specifications of organic farming and to accept the inspections of the certifying body.

A quote will be sent to you, indicating the cost of the certification, quote that you will have to approve to continue the process.

Pass an initial audit

The next step is an initial audit on your site by an auditor of the certifying body. The latter will assess the compliance of your operations with organic farming standards by examining your documents, infrastructure, equipment, products, etc. He will also identify the risks of contamination or non-compliance and propose, if necessary, corrective actions. At the end of this audit, a report will be provided to you, specifying whether you can claim AB certification or if adjustments are required.

Obtain an AB certification

The last step is to obtain AB certification, provided that the criteria assessed during the initial audit are met. A certificate of conformity will then be issued, proving that your products comply with the requirements of organic farming.

This will allow you to display the AB and European organic logos on your products and market them as such. You will also be required to comply with traceability and labelling standards specific to organic products.

Maintain an AB certification

The fifth step is important for maintaining your Organic Farming (AB) certification. It involves strict compliance with organic standards and the acceptance of regular inspections by the certifying entity. An annual audit is mandatory to ensure that your practices and activities remain compliant with the requirements of organic farming. It is also essential to notify the certifying body of any adjustments concerning your activity, whether they are changes to your products, suppliers, customers, etc.

Renewal of your certificate of compliance is required annually, which includes payment of the certification fee.

How much does an AB certification cost ?

The price of an AB certification varies according to various elements, such as the type and size of the farm, the sector of activity, the turnover, the number of products and the number of controls. Thus, it is not possible to provide a fixed price for all. Nevertheless, it is possible to categorize costs into two main groups: fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed costs

Fixed fees relate to expenses related to the application for certification, the initial audit and the annual renewal of the certificate. These costs are predetermined by the certifying body and vary mainly according to turnover and sector of activity. For example, according to Ecocert, a plant producer will pay a fixed annual cost of 250 euros for a turnover of less than 10,000 euros, and 450 euros beyond. For processors or distributors, the fixed fee is 350 euros for a turnover below 10,000 euros, and rises to 550 euros above.

Variable costs

Variable costs relate to expenses associated with regular and unexpected audits. The rate is calculated based on the time spent by the auditor on site and travel expenses. The complexity of the operation, the number of products and the number of controls influence these costs. For example, Certipaq Bio indicates that a plant producer pays 300 euros annually for a standard control, and 450 euros for a thorough control. For transformers or distributors, these amounts are respectively 400 and 600 euros.

Financial assistance

Financial support is available to alleviate the cost of AB certification. They can be granted by public authorities or private entities in the form of grants, tax credits, and reductions in social security contributions. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food offers aid for conversion and maintenance into organic farming, up to 900 euros per hectare in the first year and 300 euros in the following years. A specific aid for organic certification covers up to 50% of the costs, within a limit of 500 euros per year.

How long does it take to get an AB certification ?

The length of time to obtain AB certification varies according to several aspects, including the type of production, the sector, the area of the farm, the quantity of products, and the number of controls required. Thus, proposing a unified and accurate time estimate is complicated. However, delays can be classified into two main categories: administrative and technical.

Administrative delays

Administrative timelines include the certification application process, the start-up audit, certificate renewal each year, and surprise audits. These deadlines, defined by your certifying body, depend on its availability and internal organization. Usually brief, they range from a few weeks to a few months.

As an indication, according to the certifying body AB Certification, the average time between the submission of the certification application and the certification decision is about 6 weeks. For recertification, the process takes an average of 4 weeks.

As for the notification of a surprise check, the average time before execution is 48 hours.

Technical deadlines

Technical deadlines involve compliance with organic farming regulations and the required conversion period. These are set by European and French regulations, and can be supplemented by specific national or private requirements. These delays tend to be longer, lasting several months or even years.

For example, according to the Organic Agency, the conversion period is the time required for the land, crops, animals and products to be recognized as organic. For annual crops, this period is two years, while for perennial crops, it extends to three years.

This period is fixed at six months for poultry, nine months for pigs, twelve months for ruminants, and twelve months also for milk.

Is there a renewal to be done regarding the AB certification ?

The AB certification, essential to validate the compliance of products with organic farming standards, requires regular updating. The renewal process includes different actors and key steps. Learn how to effectively renew your AB certification:

Apply for renewal

Initiate the process by submitting a renewal application to your certification body. This must be done at least four months before your current certificate expires. You will need to provide the initial information and mention any changes in your company, whether in terms of products, suppliers, or customers. A quote will then be sent to you, indicating the cost of renewal, which you will need to approve to continue.

Complete a renewal audit

The next step involves a renewal audit of your operation, conducted by an auditor of the certifying body. The objective is to assess the compliance of your activity with organic farming standards through a verification of your documents, facilities and products. The audit also includes a contamination risk assessment, and corrective measures may be proposed. An audit report will be provided to you at the end, determining whether you are fit for renewal of AB certification or whether adjustments are required.

Obtain a new certificate of conformity

By meeting the audit criteria, the third step allows you to obtain a new certificate of conformity. This official document confirms that your products meet organic standards. You can therefore continue to display the AB and European organic logos on your products and sell them under the organic label. It is essential to follow strict traceability and labelling rules specific to organic products.

Maintain renewal of AB certification

The last step is the maintenance of your AB certification, which implies the continued compliance with the rules of organic farming and the acceptance of annual audits by the certifying body. Any changes in your business or product line must be communicated. The annual renewal of your certificate and associated fees are also required.

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Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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