A 20 per cent increase in demand for organic fruit and vegetables has prompted Woolworths to announce a new $30 million fund to help farmers improve the quality, range and volume of organic products.
The Woolworths Organic Growth Fund has been established in partnership with Heritage Bank and will offer grants and interest-free loans over the next five years to Australian organic fruit and vegetable growers looking to expand their operations or join the burgeoning organic industry.
Farmers will also have contracted purchase volumes, providing them with the certainty of longer-term supply of organic fruit and vegetables to Woolworths.
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director, Claire Peters said growing demand for organic produce was behind the initiative.
“In the last five years, demand has been growing at a rate of 20 per cent year on year in the organic produce category,” she said.
"Working with Heritage Bank, the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund represents our long-term commitment to satisfying this growing consumer demand, allowing us to continue our partnership with local farmers to make sure we’re ready for future demand.
“With the assistance of the fund’s interest free loans and grants, we can help farmers adopt innovative approaches that will enable the range of organic fruit and vegetables on offer to grow, making it more readily available and affordable for customers.”
Fourth generation family run apple orchardist, Andrew Smith, R&R Smith, Tasmania will be the first farm to benefit from the fund.
“We continue to see ongoing demand for our organic apples,” he said.
“The support from the Woolworths Organic Growth fund will be instrumental in helping us develop a new organic apple variety and bring it to market – an Australian first.”