National standards for organics in New Zealand were set down in writing in 2003, with the goal of protecting the rapidly expanding organic industry from less-reputable certifiers seen to be more motivated by profits than by organics.
The industry which in 2003 turned over $140 million per year had at that point been growing at a rate of over 10 per cent each year for the export sector and 100 per cent for the domestic sector.
Minimum organic requirements
The standard, set by Standards NZ, consists of minimum requirements for growers to meet, formalising the certification schemes already in place.
Brendan Hoare, the convenor of the Organic Federation of Aotearoa (OFA), out of which grew the current national organic unbrella body, Organics Aotearoa NZ (OANZ), on launching the standars, said the regulations stop abuse of the term organic and control some of the "cowboys" operating in the sector.
The standards exclude genetically modified products and food that has been grown hydroponically or irradiated, and als apply to organic imports.
Safeguarding established standards
Foreseeing the potential for a loss of quality in the organic industry, OFA was set up to bring together established members of the organic community to safeguard standards they had already established, and in 2005, evolved into OANZ
The setting of organic standards immediately paid dividends, according to then Green MP Ian Ewen-Street, with New Zealand being granted ‘third country’ status with the United States and the European Union.
MAF biosecurity and science policy director Peter Kettle, in an article on the standards, said any new or existing certifiers could use the National Standard as the basic document but have additional cultural or regional provisions that would, theoretically at least, provide the producers with a differentiated product and a marketing edge".
20 Year Strategy
As well as the standards, a National Strategy was developed for the organic industry which included a target of $1 billion sales by 2013.
The implementation of the 20-year strategy was outlined in a report prepared by Martech Consultant Group for OFA, Te Waka Kai Ora, MAF and Industry NZ.
Creating strong leadership for the industry was outlined in the strategy report as one of the needs to be met, and that need was answered with the creation of OANZ. Previously leadership was spread across several organisations run by volunteers.
Organic systems having the recognition as a vital part of New Zealand’s primary sector, food chain and national image was another goal. Since then the Governent has twice earmarked funding for organics which has facilitated the running of OANZ, and the setting up of an Organic Advisory programme for intending organic farmers, along with an 0800 helpline.
Tuning into the Pure New Zealand angle