Prospects for organic as well as clean and green produce are on the up, as government and industry explore new avenues to to capitalise on growing export markets and producers look to tap price premiums.
The global market for organic produce is valued at $80 billion, with 48pc in the US and 44pc across Europe. The most exciting prospect for Australia is the opportunity to supply the expected demand from Asia’s growing middle class.
With eyes on the prize, federal government is conducting a review of organic regulations, stakeholders will for the first time bring a united voice to lobby Canberra on February 14, where plans to form an inaugural peak body will also be discussed.
Organic Federation of Australia chairwoman Simone Tully, who is also-founder of beef company Australian Organic Meats, said the federal government’s support reflected industry optimism.
“We’re coming off a small base of around 1.5 per cent of the food sector, but organics are growing so quickly. Right now we’re on the cusp of another growth spurt.”
IBISWorld forecast 13pc growth year-on-year growth to 2020 for Australia’s overall organic industry. Beef comprises about 20pc of Australia’s organic exports and horticulture, dairy and wine each make up about 5pc.
There are roughly 2000 Australian organic producers and 1150 processors.
The land area certified for organic production has grown fourfold n 15 years, with some 27 million hectares accredited at last count, which is half the world total.
Ms Tully said access to capital created the same hurdle to growth organic producers as traditional farm enterprises.
But access to new markets and changing consumer trends are particularly prospective.
“My company has obtained certification for 55 cattle producers. We’ve seen the global supply chain is becoming very short and our ability to move food around the world is fantastic.
“But there are also eight million people in Sydney and Melbourne, that is a very big market on its own.
“Unfortunately our growth hasn’t been reflected in research and development. 25pc of of our organic food is imported and there are too many raw and ingredients and products on the shelf that we could produce here.”
Craig Neale is an organic producer and processor who is helping farmers take a slightly different tack to access price premiums on offer for ‘clean, green’ food.
Mr Neale and his wife Renee own Wholegrain Milling in Gunnedah and produce organic flours, as well as growing organic grain on their property near Walgett.
Organic credentials notwithstanding, he led the push for a Certified Standard called Australian Sustainable Products (ASP), which sits between conventional practices and organic.
“Some people aren’t happy with me, but you can’t feed the world with just organic produce,” Mr Neale said.
Around 60 grain growers are accredited under the audited ASP process since its creation three years ago.
ASP requirements focus on soil health, but permits minimal inputs compared to organic, Mr Neale explained.
“But the stages (of crop growth) and the ways chemical can be applied under ASP means you still end up with grain that has no detectable chemical in it.”
Price premiums of about 30pc compared to organic are on offer for ASP products, which Mr Neale said is opening a new market of conscientious but price-sensitive consumers.
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