Or­gan­ics mar­ket gath­ers pace

As New Zealand’s largest or­ganic cer­ti­fier cel­e­brates its 30th birth­day, it ap­pears the sec­tor is in good health, with de­mand on the in­crease.

Element - - Planet - DR MICHELLE GLO­GAU Michelle Glo­gau has been in­volved in the or­gan­ics sec­tor since 1993, and since June 2006 she has been chief ex­ec­u­tive of New Zealand’s lead­ing or­ganic cer­ti­fier BioGro. Glo­gau has a BSC in Science, BSc(Hons) in Plant Sciences and a PhD

This year or­ganic cer­ti­fier BioGro cel­e­brates its 30th an­niver­sary. Its vi­sion and phi­los­o­phy have surely shaped the or­ganic sec­tor New Zealand knows to­day. In 1983, reg­is­tered char­ity BioGro set out with the pri­mary ob­jec­tive to de­velop and main­tain a cred­i­ble and in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected or­ganic stan­dard and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process – to safe­guard the in­ter­ests of pro­duc­ers and con­sumers. That sin­gle-minded ob­jec­tive and found­ing phi­los­o­phy re­main fun­da­men­tal to its suc­cess to­day.

BioGro de­vel­oped its own stan­dards for New Zealand’s unique con­di­tions and di­verse types of pro­duc­ers. As the or­ganic sec­tor has di­ver­si­fied, BioGro has de­vel­oped new stan­dards to meet the de­mand, most re­cently is­su­ing or­ganic stan­dards for retailers and the mak­ers of health and body care prod­ucts – both firsts for New Zealand.

The in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion BioGro gained in its early years still stands strong. It is now ac­cred­ited by seven or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world which al­low its cer­ti­fied or­ganic pro­duc­ers to ex­port their prod­ucts to mar­kets which de­mand in­de­pen­dent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised or­ganic stan­dards. This ex­port mar­ket has con­tin­ued to grow steadily even dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Most re­cently (2012*) it was val­ued at be­tween $215 and $225m – up 25 per cent from 2009.

30 years ago or­gan­ics was a grass­roots cot­tage in­dus­try in New Zealand. The to­tal value of the or­ganic sec­tor in New Zealand is now es­ti­mated to be about $350m. This fig­ure is based on the com­bined value of ex­ports of cer­ti­fied or­ganic prod­ucts from New Zealand and the re­tail sales of cer­ti­fied or­ganic prod­ucts within New Zealand.

BioGro has be­come New Zealand’s largest or­ganic cer­ti­fier with 650 cer­ti­fied pro­duc­ers and over 1000 cer­ti­fied op­er­a­tions around New Zealand and in the Pa­cific.

BioGro has seen strong growth among its cer­ti­fied pro­duc­ers com­mit­ted to or­ganic viti­cul­ture. By 2012 there were over 100 vine­yards grow­ing grapes or­gan­i­cally, rep­re­sent­ing 7.6% of all grapevines. The grow­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, Or­ganic Wine­grow­ers New Zealand, has de­clared a goal of rais­ing that fig­ure to 20% by the year 2020. Or­ganic grapes are the fastest grow­ing sec­tor of or­ganic hor­ti­cul­ture, which saw a to­tal in­crease in land area (in­clud­ing grapes) of 37% be­tween 2009 and 2012, to 11,188 ha.

In re­cent years, BioGro has also seen strong in­ter­est from, and growth in, the or­ganic health and body care sec­tor. More con­sumers are con­cerned about not only what they put in their bod­ies but also what they put on their bod­ies.

All Good Or­gan­ics is a rel­a­tive new­comer to BioGro’s fam­ily hav­ing re­cently launched its range of Fair­trade or­ganic drinks late last year. Co-founder Si­mon Co­ley says: “We’ve al­ready had sig­nif­i­cant up­take on the drinks from cafes, restau­rants and bars around the coun­try and are even sell­ing in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia and Ma­cau where there is a strong de­mand for or­ganic prod­ucts. We’ve found that our clients re­ally want to sup­port an or­ganic prod­uct.”

They’ve no­ticed more and more peo­ple look­ing to make eth­i­cal pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions. “Hav­ing or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and a strong story of prove­nance and care for the en­vi­ron­ment be­hind our prod­ucts and the in­gre­di­ents in them, re­ally res­onates with our cus­tomers,” he adds.

An in­crease in or­ganic pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing com­bined with con­sumer de­mand has re­sulted in growth for cer­ti­fied or­ganic retailers too.

Marion Wood, co-owner of Welling­ton’s cer­ti­fied or­ganic stores Com­mon­sense Or­gan­ics says they con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence dou­ble-digit growth and as a re­sult are open­ing their fifth re­tail store in John­sonville.

One prac­tice BioGro strongly op­poses is ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion and ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered or­gan­isms, which is ex­pressly pro­hib­ited for the pro­duc­tion of BioGro cer­ti­fied prod­ucts.

While GMOs are pro­moted with wide-reach­ing claims, a large and grow­ing body of ev­i­dence shows that the claims are not true. Con­ven­tional plant breed­ing, in some cases helped by safe mod­ern tech­nolo­gies like gene map­ping and marker as­sisted se­lec­tion, con­tin­ues to out­per­form GM in pro­duc­ing high-yield, drought-tol­er­ant, and pest and diseasere­sis­tant crops that can meet our present and fu­ture food needs.

There is no need to take risks with GM crops when ef­fec­tive, read­ily avail­able, and sus­tain­able so­lu­tions to the prob­lems that GM tech­nol­ogy is claimed to ad­dress al­ready ex­ist. Con­sumers don’t want it and there is strong pres­sure from con­sumers for GE food to be la­beled.

We are op­ti­mistic about the next 30 years. Our work has al­ways been about sup­port­ing pro­duc­ers to op­er­ate or­gan­i­cally and giv­ing con­sumers the con­fi­dence that what they’re buy­ing truly is or­ganic. May their good work con­tinue.

Photo: sup­plied

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