Leading organic body restructures

Australian Organic Limited adopts new stand-alone role


Agribusiness
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Australian Organic's new structure should help the organics sector better lobby for domestic legislation and achieve more international market access.

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Australia’s largest organics industry body, Australian Organic Limited (AOL), has restructured to become a stand-alone, member-owned, not-for-profit industry services group.

In one of the most significant events in the organisation’s 30-year history, AOL expects the changes to enable the organics sector to effectively lobby for domestic legislation and have greater and simpler access to international markets.

The restructure will also involve key changes to the rights to use the “Bud” logo – Australia’s oldest organic certification mark – which guarantees a product is truly organic.

All organic certification services will be granted to access the “Bud via approved and licensed certification agencies.

AOL says Australian consumers will also be guaranteed increased Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) action on questionable organic claims and promised integrity and trust within the industry.

We are working to ensure we are unified in one national standard, which means we will be a stronger voice to lobby government... focus on education and protection of the industry. - Emily Arnold, Australian Organic Group

However, the restructure, which invloves splitting AOL into into two separate sections – the new stand-alone advocacy group and its certification arm – has been questioned by some.

Tony Webster, the independent consultant for the Australian Organic Industry Working Group, who prepared a road map for a new peak body after extensive industry consultation, said divisions over several decades had left the organic industry with a poor reputation among governments, mainstream producers and the supply chain.

“Grassroots organic growers, processors and traders are weary of the leadership divisions and absence of vision which so characterise their industry,” his report stated.

“There is a desire for a new peak body that can overcome these problems and effectively represent the interests of the broader industry.”

Mr Webster said AO’s model had much going for it but needed to adopt more value-adding for growers, such as a member council. Read more

A national survey conducted last year, revealed organic food has a firm foothold in consumers’ shopping baskets, with more than two out of three households purchasing organic products in the last year.

Furthermore, this year’s Australian Organic Market Report revealed Australia officially holds the largest amount of organically managed farmland in the world at 53 per cent.

However, this is still not enough to meet growing local demand.

“The launch of the new structure allows us to collaborate, support and represent the industry more broadly,” said newly-appointed Australian Organic Group manager, Emily Arnold.

“We are working to ensure we are unified in one national standard, which means we will be a stronger voice to lobby government and we will continue to maintain our strong focus on education and protection of the industry.

“Australians can look forward to the opportunities this restructure will deliver to them, and to the industry as a whole, over the decade ahead.”

Members and industry leaders voted unanimously for the change at last week’s Australian Organic annual general meeting.

There was significant work and ongoing consulting needed to enable this harmonised movement – work initially instigated by the then Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, and his office who assisted in informing the pathways for the industry.

This new pathway and what it represents is strongly supported by former Senator Nick Xenophon and Senator Rex Patrick.

“In liaising with Australian Organic over the years, we understand there to be two major issues that remain unresolved for industry members,” said Senator Xenophon.

“One is the absence of domestic legislation, which would fully protect the organic attribution claims of legitimate, industry standard-abiding business people who invest in building up their own organic brands and business.

“The second, is the effective enforcement of claims that are patently not in compliance with the nationally agreed, clearly articulated organic standard.”

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