By Louise FitzRoy
As you might have already read in the media, the past two years has seen a significant spike in the number of applications from beef producers for organic certification through Australian Certified Organic.
We have received 60 applications from beef operations since 2011, which is about a 25 per cent increase on what we normally receive. Chief certification officer, Michael Baker, says demand from suppliers for exports has resulted in the increase in applications from beef producers for organic certification.
He says livestock applications are coming from western Queensland, western New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Moonbong Partnership is a third-generation family beef operation based at Tambo in Central West Queensland. Andrew Walker, along with his father and brother, is a partner in the business. They applied for organic certification in November 2012.
“We don’t use buffalo fly spray or hardly any other chemicals for that matter when we finish the bullocks, so we thought we might as well be finishing them with organic status,” Andrew says.
“We decided to become organically certified because the returns are much more significant. We can expect to get 55 cents more per kilo for a two tooth bullock weighing 300–340 kilograms, from $3.55 that we currently receive to $4.10 with organic status.”
He says an increase in beef producers gaining certification will never affect returns for those already organically certified. “I think gaining certification is too time consuming and hard for there to be too many producers flooding the market. I think the process needs to be simplified. I think it will always be a challenge for the organic industry to find enough cattle to meet the demand.”
Advice to producers becoming certified
The CEO of Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co., Alister Ferguson, says beef producers signing up for organic certification need to contact meat buyers now. “It might take several years before they can sell organic meat, but they need to let the supply chain know now that they will be coming on board. Growth of our export markets in the United States and Asia, as well as in Australia, is dictated by supply. If we know two years out that we’re going to get a substantial increase in cattle, then we can plan for it because that’s how long it takes to get our programs established,” Alister says.
“This will also mean that even with an increase in organic producers everyone will still enjoy those higher premiums because we have increased the demand that comes with an increase in supply.”
He says it’s heartening to see more beef producers applying for organic certification. “Eight years ago when we opened our doors, we started with 66 head of cattle a fortnight. Earlier this year we were at 1000 a week,” says Alister.
“The reason is that producers can see a 40 per cent premium in it for them. They can also see huge markets like the United States demanding organic beef with these orders still struggling to be filled. Our programs are currently growing by 20 per cent each year. The great unknown is China, which is just starting to come on board.
“Organic is not a fad. Popularity for organic products is growing around the world and it’s great to see beef producers adapting their practices to make the most of that popularity.”