There are significant financial rewards for those who make the effort to convert to organics said Organics Aotearoa NZ executive director Ken Shirley at a Lincoln University seminar recently.
He said those who do well can have the benefit of premiums being paid for organic produce.
Organic premiums "Between 1996 and 1999 the premium for organic kiwifruit averaged 50%. Also in 1999, organic peas had a premium of 41% and organic sweetcorn, 57%."
"Certified organic apples are enjoying a 100% premium, as is certified organic lamb."
He said the organic future looks bright with worldwide demand for quality, clean and ethical organic produce growing rapidly.
31 million organic hectares According to IFOAM’s recent report “The World of Organic Agriculture”, almost 31 million hectares of land around the globe – more than 633,000 farms – are being managed organically said Mr Shirley.
"Global sales are currently about US$40 billion – almost 4% of the world food and
But with sales of organic products increasing between 10% and 20% each year, the
demand still outstrips supply, he said.
NZ organic farm land increase Between 1999 and 2005 the amount of New Zealand land that was either certified organic or under conversion increased by more than 400%.
Today, New Zealand's major organic export markets are Japan, Europe and the United States.
North America, which contributes almost half of global demand for organic products, farms just 2% of the world’s organic land.
Organic global market "This rapidly expanding, high value, discerning global market offers a golden opportunity for New Zealand’s certified organic producers – and for contemporary producers who are prepared to make the transition to organic production systems."
New Zealand’s organic exports are currently worth around $100 million a year. The
domestic market consumes around $60 million, and another $40 million of organic
products are imported each year. OANZ has a target of boosting organic
production to $1 billion by 2013.
Organic advice To help grow the organic pie, OANZ has set up the Organic Advisory Programme. The
Smart Start on farm consultation service will offer a hand up to 50 new producers this
year said Mr Shirley.
The Organic Advisory Programme also administers “Industry & Community Directed
Programmes”. Recipients will be given funding to distribute accurate and proven
information to the organic sector, so farmers and growers can make educated
Growing, retail, export awards The inaugural Organic Awards, which celebrate excellence in growing, retailing, and exporting, will be held at the OANZ conference in August.
OANZ, which was formed in 2006, now runs three task teams – communications and
advocacy, research and education, and market access. Besides growing the organic
sector through the advisory programme, it also lobbies on behalf of organic producers and their industry organisations.
Food miles flawed Mr Shirley said the food miles concept was fundamentally flawed and posed a threat to international trade.
A Lincoln University study last year showed that – even taking into account transport to the UK – importing dairy products, lamb, apples and onions from New Zealand
required less energy than producing the same goods locally.
"Nevertheless, market perceptions can be driven by these campaigns of distortion,"
said Mr Shirley.
GE incompatible Genetic engineering was also incompatible with organic production systems, and it was alarming the Environmental Risk Management Authority was looking at authorising field trials of GE Brassica, he said.
Mr Shirley, the former deputy leader of ACT, said he intended to tackle the issues
head-on, and hoped to have the full weight of the organics sector behind him.
New Zealand has a long and fruitful organic history, with many pioneers shaping the
path and providing a strong foundation, he said.
"Our organic future presents New Zealand with many opportunities – in health, the
environment and trade."
Organic soil healthier, more resilient Besides the health benefits from growing food with a high nutritional quality, there are the environmental benefits that come from using natural microbial activity to build active humus and healthier, more resilient soils, rather than fighting nature with synthetic chemicals and poisons, he said.
Other environmental benefits include less erosion, greater biodiversity, enhanced water retention in drought prone soils, and less pollution.
Organic potential to reverse damage "Perhaps the most significant environmental benefits are the potential for active humus formation to sequester atmospheric carbon and reduce nitrate contamination of our waterways."
And trade benefits flow from offering a premium product, at premium prices, he said.
A Lincoln University report, completed in July 2006, found the production of key New Zealand agricultural exports was more energy efficient than their European counterparts. Production resulted in fewer emissions than the same primary products produced in Europe, even after taking into account the distance New Zealand exports travelled to reach key market, New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said.
The Lincoln University report found that in the case of dairy and sheepmeat production, for example, New Zealand is more energy efficient including the cost of transporting the products to the UK.
"European research has also shown that food miles are not a good measure of environmental impact. A study by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has concluded that a single indicator based on total miles or kilometres is an inadequate indicator of environmental sustainability," Phil Goff said.
Agriculture minister Jim Anderton said the Lincoln University report followed a comprehensive approach. It showed that when consideration was given to New Zealand farming methods and the total amount of energy used, especially in the production phase, the overall picture was one of New Zealand producers being more energy efficient and creating fewer emissions. This is even after the energy consumed by transport is taken into account.
See also By Organic or Buy Local: Which comes first?