Australian Organic’s Strategic Priorities

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 a fit for purpose regulatory process that is consistent with the organic export requirements.

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.

Organic Claims

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 products simply claiming to be organic. 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.

In June 2020, Australian Organic Limited submitted, on behalf of its members, a discussion paper outlining the opportunities for future economic and industry growth should a mandatory domestic standard be implemented. Providing consistency in both markets will allow discussion of equivalency to progress with confidence as international stakeholders have provided comments 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.

Organics Industry Advisory Group

In December 2020, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, requested that the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) appoint an Organics Industry Advisory Group to investigate the creation of a nationwide regulatory framework for the production and sale of organic products.

The group will review whether the current domestic regulatory framework is fit for purpose and to better understand the potential of improving current regulations to facilitate the development and growth of the organic industry.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud said that the Australian Government remains responsive to the needs of industry.

“Australia’s organics industry contributes around AUD$2.6 billion to the Australian economy each year and is projected to grow strongly over the next five years, with revenue forecast to increase at an annualised rate of 15.1 per cent through to 2024-25,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Improving the regulatory framework should be focused on growing our organic industry, improving market access with other countries, especially our major trading partners, and reducing the need for multiple accreditations from different countries – reducing regulatory burden and saving money.”

View the full DAWE media release here.

“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 implementing a domestic standard. We hope to effect this change by having the National Organic Standard introduced into the legislative framework.

AOL is working with Government and Industry to provide a pathway for the implementation of a consistent domestic standard. It is worth noting that the single biggest competitor to organic products domestically is “fake organic”. A mandatory domestic standard will not only significantly increase exports for Australian Organic businesses, it will also remove the biggest competitor in their local market.”

Martin Meek

Chairman, Australian Organic Limited