Australian Organic’s Strategic Priority for 2020

Australia is misaligned with global standards and officially the last developed nation in the world to not have an enforced domestic standard for the use of the word “organic” (see image below).

It is Australian Organic’s strategic priority to work with government and key regulatory bodies to deliver domestic regulation during 2020.

This consistent approach to the organic industry will ensure Australia’s world class organic standard will continue to grow market access internationally and provide Australian consumers with confidence when choosing products that claim to be organic.

Gaining Equivalency with Export Markets

At present, the only way an Australian consumer can be certain a product is truly organic is to look for a certification mark. There are currently six marks used within Australia, each mark is attached to a certification body approved by Department of Agriculture, Water & Environment (DAWE) to the National  Standard for Organic & Bio Dynamic Produce (National Standard or NS) under the Export Control Act (1982).

The National Standard, via the use of Organic Produce (Export) Certificates (OPCs), provides 81 countries with surety that the produce they are purchasing from Australian adheres to the rigorous certification and audit processes. This provides surety for the buyers in those markets that the produce they are purchasing adheres to the rigorous certification and audit processes as set out in the National Standard. However, within Australia there are variations of Standards that make the consumption and production of organic products difficult to navigate and results in confusion for consumers.

The National Standard was written with the intention to be enforced domestically as clearly stated by Mr Crean in a Ministerial Press Release, dated 10 February 1992 when the National Standard for Organic & Bio Dynamic Produce was released; “I therefore intend to request the new National Food Authority to take the necessary action to ensure the regulatory controls on the domestic market parallel those which I am implementing for export.”

The Standard was and remains world class as stated by Mr Crean; “This is a hallmark achievement for the Australian organic produce industry which I understand has produced the first nationally agreed standard outside of the European Community.”

Australian Organic is proposing that the National Standard be enforced domestically to provide confidence, and a level playing field in a dynamic growth industry.

Market Analysis & Opportunity

The Australian Organic industry is currently worth $2.6 billion, growing year on year since market data has been reported.

  • Domestic sales in 2018 grew 15% vs the previous year
  • Export tonnage was up 13% over the same period.

Industry consumer data shows that Australian shoppers are purchasing more organic products than ever before:

  • 6 out of 10 shoppers have purchased organic product in the past 12 months
  • 55% of shopper would choose an organic product with a certification mark in a like for like purchase
  • 51% recognise Bud logo as the mark of Australian certified organic.

Fake Organics

Despite significant growth, Australian consumers are still confused or fooled at the register on a regular basis due to multiple standards and the prolific growth of “fake organics”. While the ACCC is tasked with managing consumer deception, its limited resources are not keeping up with the fast-growing sector requirements and the opportunists that are watering down the organic standard.

A recent survey of organic consumers, conducted by Australian Organic, demonstrated that 78% of those surveyed were not aware that products that have as little as 2% organic ingredients can claim to be organic. 95% of the same survey group agreed that it is important for organic products to be tested by a strict set of standards through certification.

Engaging with industry through FSANZ to develop a definition that defines clearly the word “organic” will provide opportunities within the domestic and international markets. Providing consistency in both markets with allow discussion of equivalency to progress with confidence as international stakeholders have provided comment that this discrepancy limits trust in our exports.

We continue to support the co-regulatory model for the maintenance of the standard and certification program that underpins the organic industry.

“One of the biggest impediments to the export of Certified Organic product from Australia is our lack of equivalency with chief markets, with a significant obstacle to us achieving equivalency being our lack of organic domestic legislation.

To enable us to achieve our primary objective, we must first achieve domestic legislation. We hope to effect this change by having the National Organic Standard introduced into the legislative framework during 2020.

AOL is working with Government and Industry to provide options for the implementation of domestic regulation. It is worth noting that the single biggest competitor to organic products domestically are “fake organic”. Domestic legislation will not only significantly increase exports for Australian Organic businesses, it will also remove the biggest competitor in their local market. We are hoping to achieve domestic legislation by 2021.”

Martin Meek

Chairman, Australian Organic Ltd