Hi. I’m Annabelle Bushell, industry development officer with Australian Organic.
In my role I have visited a number of horticultural growers in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland with more growers and regions to come.
What is apparent is the need to carefully build the supply capacity of the certified organic industry.
It is touted that the industry is growing significantly due to a rapidly growing retail sector; however I’m seeing from a production point of view, the inherent size of the sectors -particularly within fresh produce – results in a fragility that needs careful consideration and planning by those entering the organic industry.
Is what you want to grow already available?
It takes a significant mind set change and a high level of management to implement organic systems.
There are producers who have been in the industry for some time and they carry the knowledge of specific organic production principles. It isn’t about protecting these farmers at all costs but if development saturates markets, loss of existing profitable businesses is possible – threatening the overall strength and sustainability in the long term.
So understanding the market before you take the leap is critical.
Who is your customer and what do you need to do to be ready to sell to them?
If you’re thinking about entering the certified organic industry understand the end market.
If you are a producer, are there additional systems you will need to put in place to meet customer requirements? For example, larger retailers will require at least Freshcare certification and quite likely implementation of their own quality assurance system.
This market information is critical for a producer to know. It’s just as important as knowing where to go to build technical and organic production knowledge. In the coming months Australian Organic will develop materials to help you access market information.
If you’re in the Balonne and Border Rivers regions of Queensland, there’s funding available to help you understand and develop markets. The Queensland Government’s High Value Horticulture Value Chains project is offering a co-investment funding scheme.
It provides direct financial support to eligible farm and post farm gate businesses to help stimulate development of new high value horticultural value chains in the Murray-Darling Basin region.
The project activities are quite broad, ranging from assessing crop suitability and building value chain capacity to developing new markets and analysing new value chains.
Find out more here. The first stage of accessing these funds will be due by 20 April 2015.
If you’re not sure if your project ideas are suitable, call Justin Heaven, senior industry development officer at Applethorpe’s Research Station, 13 25 23 or Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m happy to give you feedback on your application.