The organic market in Australia is booming, according to the Australian Organic Market Report 2014, published three weeks ago by Australian Organic.
Alasdair Smithson, resident Byron Bay organic farmer and owner of Munch Crunch Organic fruit and veg supplier, explores this phenomenon.
Since I co-authored the first Australian Organic Market Report in 2008, the latest research shows that the organic market in Australia has been growing at 15 per cent per year and is still growing.
Now worth an estimated $1.72 billion it is very encouraging to see that the rate of growth is significant especially when compared to the growth rate of the conventional or chemically grown food market, which has only grown at 3.5 per cent from 2012–14.
This shows that our nation is starting to put more of an emphasis on a healthy diet and to seek food that is grown without pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and GM ingredients.
Perhaps consumers are also starting to join up some of the dots, realising that organic farming also provides positive envivvronmental benefits, can help sequester carbon in the soil – thus potentially mitigating climate change – and has the highest levels of animal welfare.
Although the market is growing it should be noted that the organic market still only accounts for about 1.25 per cent of total food sales in Australia. So while we’re on the right track there is still a long way to go before organic food and farming becomes the norm and anywhere close to some of the more progressive Scandinavian countries, where organic food consumption accounts for about 15 per cent of overall food purchases.
After a closer read of the report it is also clear that Australia exports a large quantity of its organic food (mainly beef and grain) and that although Australia boasts the largest number of certified organically farmed hectares in the world, 22.69 million; this is owing to a few large-scale and extensive organic cattle farms in the Northern Territory.
Unfortunately there has been virtually no increase in new organic farmers taking to the land – probably owing to the fact that farming is still seen as a physical job with a low income and is not truly recognised as a profession, basically all the things that drive young people to go to work in the cities.
This either means existing organic farmers are going to have to get bigger to feed the ever-increasing demand for organic food, or we’re going to have to start importing organic food, or we’re going to have to offer better opportunities to train and make organic farming more attractive to the next generation.
The latter is my preference and we have recently launched a crowd-funding campaign to do just that. If you’d like to know more visit: www.chuffed.org/project/munchcrunchorganics.
If you’d like to read the full Australian Organic Market Report a free copy can be found at here.