Health and environmentally conscious shoppers will be able to buy locally certified organic vegetables within 18 months, following the adoption of a university-backed system. The Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre of the Baptist University yesterday announced the move, which aims to cater for the growing local organic food market. Officiating at the inception ceremony at the university, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Thomas Chan Chun-yuen said whether a product was organic or not could not be determined by its appearance. 'We need a comprehensive and authoritative accreditation system by an independent body that can ensure the organic production process,' he said, adding that his department would provide financial support to farmers. Certificates will be granted to farms which meet the required standards, including passing of chemical tests and site inspections. A certificate costs $15,000 and its annual renewal is $10,000. But a discount is offered this year in which a certificate costs only $3,000. Organic food from the certified farms will carry a label. Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, director of the centre, said local farmers would benefit from the certification system in the long run. 'They have to pay for the certification at first, but customers will feel more confident about the quality of the organic vegetables they buy with the labels,' said Dr Wong. A survey done by the centre last month, which polled 495 people, found that 60 per cent would be more willing to buy organic food if there was a certification system. Three labels that will identify various certified organic products.