Organic growth prompts a new guide

Source @ The Canberra Times – 06 August 2011 – By Henrietta Cook

A spike in the number of Australian households purchasing organic food has prompted the Biological Farmers of Australia to publish a guide that sets out the differences between organic and conventional produce. The group’s director and standards convener, Andrew Monk, said organic domestic sales had grown by 50 per cent in two years, up from $623 million in 2008 to $947 million last year.

Research commissioned by the not-for-profit industry body shows more than 60 per cent of Australian households actively purchased an organic product in 2010.

The new guide, which Biological Farmers of Australia says is an Australian first, answers common questions about organic farming and explains the intricacies of the Australian Certified Organic Standards. “This is an explanatory guide for the newcomer and for the regular organic consumers,’’ Dr Monk said. ‘‘We are also finding a lot of people who consume organic food regularly are quizzical about a lot of things. Most people don’t know what is in normal foods or the complexities of organic food.” The guide covers rules for pork, dairy, poultry, eggs, honey, processed food and drinks, cosmetics and skin-care products and animal and pet foods.

Dr Monk said big supermarkets were responsible for boosting the $1 billion industry. “The very fact that they are stocking these things is giving more mainstream consumers access to organic products that weren’t available before.” He said health practitioners were also driving the growth by encouraging sick patients to switch to organic food. ‘‘There seems to be an increasing number of health professionals, saying to go organic, if someone is sick and doesn’t need pesticides in their system.’’ While organic produce only contributes to about 1 per cent of all Australian food and beverage sales, it makes up a larger percentage of the dairy and baby food market.

Organic Energy is a bustling store in Griffith that has been selling fruit and vegetables for 18 years. Owner Karen Medbury said traffic through her shop had increased eightfold since she opened in 1994. ‘‘The No 1 reason people come here is for the taste, but they are also worried about their health and pesticides in food,’’ she said. ‘‘There is a greater awareness of damage to agricultural land and there is more information out there about what is going on.’’ She said the trend for supermarkets to stock organic produce had not affected sales in her shop. But the fruit and vegetable shop, which is just metres from an organic butcher and a health food store, has been affected by the growing popularity of Canberra’s farmers’ markets.

Ms Medbury said organic food was more expensive than conventional produce, but still affordable. ‘‘It depends on where people put their priorities. It could be as simple as buying organic food and not having takeaway.”

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