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State’s biggest organic farmers call for domestic regulation

VICTORIA’S largest organic producer, Wattle Organic Farms, is echoing the industry’s cry for the Federal Government to create a domestic regulation for the organic sector.

Fourth and third-generation producers, Nathan and Kelvin Free, grow pumpkin, broccoli and stone fruit across 130 ha of certified organic land at Lake Boga near Swan Hill to supply contracts with Coles and Woolworths. They believe Australian consumers are being let down by the lack of a national standard for use of the word “organic” in labelling.

Nathan Free said he was aware of produce reaching markets that was falsely labelled organic.

“For our industry to be fully respected by consumers, we need the correct framework in place so buyers have the guarantee they are purchasing a genuine organic product,” Nathan said.

“Domestic regulation will hold the entire industry to the same standard and bring all producers into line under the same transparent practices our customers deserve.”

Currently, Australia is lagging behind global markets as one of the only developed nations in the world without its own domestic standard, however steps are being taken to address this important issue.

In December 2020, Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, convened an Organics Industry Advisory Group, which will provide recommendations for ensuring the regulatory framework is fit for purpose.

Chief Executive Officer of peak industry body, Australian Organic Limited (AOL), Niki Ford, who is part of the Advisory Group, described the lack of regulation as being “like a handbrake” on industry growth.

“The Australian organic sector currently contributes more than $2 billion to the national economy and is poised for annual growth of 14.6 per cent,” Ms Ford said.

“It is absolutely vital every Australian investing in organic goods has peace of mind the product is exactly what it states on the label.”

Since 2010, every facet of the Wattle Organic Farms agricultural enterprise, including packing facilities, has been certified and bared the Australian Certified Organic Bud trademark logo.

Kelvin said he was proud the widely recognised logo was stamped on Wattle Organic Farms’ produce and that a national standard was an overdue next step for the industry.

“Without domestic regulation, there is a chance the customer is being cheated, which is unacceptable,” Kelvin said.

“More and more, we are noticing consumers are opting to buy organic products when they are presented with a choice to do so. Our industry needs the necessary guarantees in place for our expanding customer base.”