New research reveals extent of organic growth

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd July 2008

The first official Australian organic data in four years has been launched today by Biological Farmers of Australia revealing that the organic industry is potentially as resilient in drought as its products claim to be healthy for consumers.

Independently researched by the University of New England’s Organic Research Group, and commissioned by the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA), the Australian Organic Market Report (AOMR) is based on industry-wide survey data and builds upon research published by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) in 2004.

Dr Andrew Monk, BFA Director and Standards Chair believes the study was greatly needed due to the limited availability of information about the industry in recent years.  “For an industry which has somewhat been restricted by a lack of relevant and accessible information in recent years, the AOMR is a benchmark research document which promises to assist in the industry’s future monitoring and planning,” he said. “The AOMR will serve as a key tool for decision making for potential and existing organic producers and marketers, while offering reference points for government, media and interested parties, allowing for a better understanding overall of the nature, size and structure of the organic industry in Australia.”

The research established that retail value (incorporating imports and adjusting for exports) was estimated above $0.5B for the first time. Retail value reached $578,000,000, with reports of between 10 and 30% growth per annum for some sectors since the last report in 2004. The growth in the industry is not surprising as the health and wellness trend gathers momentum, and the healthy consumer perception of organic products could be expected to lead to further sales increases in the coming years.

The study also found that 2007 farm gate values were estimated to be in excess of $231,000,000 – an 80% increase on the 2004 DAFF research findings. The number of certified organic operators is rising by about 5.2% per annum and, with 11,988,044 hectares, Australia currently accounts for the largest amount of certified organic farmland in the world, the majority of which is used for extensive grazing.

The major retailers were also found to be embracing organic produce with many now carrying in excess of 500 different organic lines in fresh and grocery categories.

It was discovered that fresh produce remains the primary ‘point of entry’ for new organic consumers and 40% of consumers are now purchasing organic food at least “on occasions”.

Dr Monk added that many organic farmers have been able to show great resilience in the face of the drought. “While most agriculture has suffered in recent years from drought and floods, many sectors of the organic industry have recovered to be able to consolidate and expand,” he said. “Such rapid growth is likely to be attributed to a combination of consumer driven interest in purchasing organic products in line with overseas trends, as well as possibly the naturally more resilient nature of organically well-managed soils, enabling faster recovery following extreme dry or wet weather periods alike.”

Dr Monk said that the intention is to commission research every two years from 2008, with underwriting support from BFA and matching support from industry and governments. The official launch will take place in Sydney on Friday this week at the Organic Expo.

For more details about the research and the BFA please go to:  www.bfa.com.au

For information about the Organic Expo please visit: www.organicexpo.com.au