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CEO UPDATES

Monthly updates from Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic Ltd

AUGUST 2019

With August now a fading memory, it’s difficult to believe that we are already two months into the new financial year. This year, the AOL team plans to visit as many regions around Australia as possible.

During the past month we have travelled through parts of regional Australia that I could never have imagined to be so picturesque. The great South-West of Western Australia and the rolling hills of the South Australian wine regions were simply breathtaking; matched only by the warmth of the hospitality we were afforded.

Healthy rainfall in those parts offered greenery that I have not seen in some time on the East Coast and the visual was overwhelming to my senses. “It’s so green!” – was my opening comment to all the organic industry participants we were fortunate to meet.

The Margaret River region certainly lives up to its reputation and we were welcomed with open arms, discovering that this region is about to burst with world-renowned vineyards – such as Voyager Estate – completing their certification next year and bottling their first vintage of certified organic wine in 2020. Outstanding.

While in South Australia we heard commentary that wineries cannot keep up with consumer demand and we therefore encourage more vineyards to certify and take advantage of this growing market; alongside producers and manufacturers who are similarly looking to other states to grow their footprint.

Spring has certainly sprung! September is all about spreading awareness of why consumers should choose certified organic produce over those that aren’t certified. Look for the campaign POS material in your local markets, supermarkets, health food stores, major retailer and online. If they don’t have any when next you visit, let the team at the office know and we can post out a kit to assist promoting your products in store: marketing@austorganic.com

I am looking forward to meeting more of you on my regional travel during September.

Regards,

Niki Ford
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Organic Ltd

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER

Over the past six weeks we convened six advisory committees to discuss various issues relating to our industry. Grain importation challenges and the potential legislative amendment to the emerging gene technology CRISPR/ SDN-1, have been key points of discussion with industry representatives who are considered stepping up to support our dialogue with government. Ian Mack will be chairing the Grain committee and I will continue to lead support for ongoing discussion and proactive advocacy.

The Vigneron committee has been quick to convene additional meetings. Committee Chairman Mike Brown and the committee members have been discussing current market access and certification challenges whilst also bringing to life the long-awaited ‘Organic Wine Awards’.
The recent contamination issue experienced by input product PyGanic triggered the Input Committee to convene. Owen Gwilliam is the committee chair and will be leading a full review of the relevant section of the ACOS.

Along with the Livestock Committee, chaired by Marg Will, The Horticulture Committee is currently looking for more members to formally convene. Should anyone be keen please contact me and we can discuss the selection process.

THE STRATEGIC ROADMAP

How we serve the membership and add value to the industry remains at the core of every decision made at AOL. The August meet saw a second remodelling of the Membership structure presented to Board, with further work to be completed to ensure we have a model that is sustainable and inclusive for the future.

The diversity of our broad industry was evident during our South-West Western Australian tour. We visited with members who operated a broad cross-section of organic enterprises including certified organic wineries, olive groves, cosmetics, hemp, potatoes, walnuts, avocados and beef operations.

This diversity was mirrored when visiting South Australia where we met with certified operators of home delivery produce, cosmetics, wineries, retailers, organic inputter’s and wholesale businesses.

Recently we hosted our second Industry Forum, “Retail Ready”, in Adelaide and welcomed attendees representing four of the six certifications participants. Guest speaker, Peter Huskins from Shopability (courtesy of AUSIndustry), talked about profitability, pricing and promotion. We learned how South Australian great Monika Feibig built a successful business through research and self- education, networking and taking calculated risks. We also learned how 5th generation family businessman Richard Angove believes their mantra ‘Mindset is the most important part of success’ is the cornerstone of the success Angove Family Winemakers enjoys today.

Jill Whitehouse and Will Soulsby highlighted how the ‘Age of the Customer’ is empowering buyers’ obsession for a new level of customer experience. The day was completed with a thoroughly enjoyable evening of networking amongst a group of highly engaged industry advocates. Thank you to all that attended.

INFLUENCING DECISION

I relished the recent opportunity to meet Deb Langford, the new Assistant Secretary – Residues & Food Branch, Exports Division. Deb leads the team who preside over the Organic Program within the Department of Agriculture and it was an absolute pleasure to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for the organic industry.

AOL also assisted with hosting a second group discussion with the Biosecurity division – both plant and animal – to advance a common understanding of the ongoing challenges faced by traders who are attempting to import grain in support of the livestock sector, as the drought continues to challenge supply.

On matters relating to the emerging gene technology discussion (see our statement on Emerging Gene Technology dated 23 August 2019), we met with the Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Agriculture Policy and Advisors of Agriculture, Industry and Trade Ministers.

Lobbying continues for domestically enforced regulation through continued discussion with the Department of Industry and initial consultation with Western Australian, Tasmanian and Queensland State Agriculture departments. All other state meetings are currently being scheduled. Details to follow.

ESTABLISHING GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS

Engaging with our counterparts overseas to increase Australia’s profile and develop an understanding on key industry issues remains core to the four pillars of AOL’s strategic approach to a sustainable future.

Discussion with CCOF, Buy Pure NZ and Professor Carlo Leifert over the emerging gene technology has assisted in developing our strategy for engagement with government. Well-resourced and researched, we have established an ongoing considered and measured conversation with government. We will continue lobbying on this matter and update you accordingly.

SECURING OUR SEAT AT THE TABLE

Working in consultation with NFF and other key agriculture organisations such as Australian Seed Federation, Croplife, MLA and Dairy Australia, AOL has been able to engage in discussion previously not available and have been invited to contribute to key issues in the broader agriculture realm.

AOL attended the KPMG & Grain Growers Sustainability Framework Workshop at the Agforce Head Office to present our views and contribute to discussion relating to the Grain industry. Key stakeholders from across the grain industry deliberated on how the grain industry could evolve to become more sustainable, economically and environmentally.

CONSUMER REACH

The Marketing team have been hard at work connecting with consumers and driving awareness of certified organic. The AOL socials hit new records and we are seeing ongoing engagement:

  • Instagram now has 48,200 followers
  • LinkedIn has grown to 1,500
  • Facebook increased by 7,170 followers from last month, now 63,238
  • Bud Organic Club Membership is now 1,804

AOL will again this year provide POS material to all retailers, wholesalers and businesses who express interest. Digital marketing content is also available for social and website requirements.

Outside of September, AOL now offers advertising/marketing opportunities at a very low cost to all Members wanting to grow their consumers reach, especially via social media channels. To understand more, send the team an email at marketing@austorganic.com

MEET THE TEAM

To support the future of the leading industry body we restructured the operational team. This restructure has provided growth and development both personally for existing staff while also establishing new roles to support members and industry needs.

Rhonda Vohland remains our oracle and Finance and Administration Manager, while the following changes have been made to form a dynamic team that will in my view take our organisation and industry into the future.

Kelsie Taylor is our Social Media & Events Coordinator, an expert in creating events and developing Social Media content.

Bianca Staats took on the exclusivity focused Membership Coordinator role in March.

In late April, Amanda McLennan became our newly appointed Project Coordinator, managing all project and campaigns.

Harriet Kendrick became our new full time Communication & Digital Coordinator, a position previously only part time.

Our operational structure grew to include an Executive Assistant, Kelly Treacy, last month bringing the team to seven. Kelly has hit the ground running supporting myself and Board.