It’s Australian Organic Awareness Month and this September, the annual event will focus on products falsely claiming to be organic on packaging, as peak industry body Australian Organic Limited urges consumers to look for the official bud certification logo.
The word ‘organic’ is not defined in Australia and for the past 18 months, AOL has maintained discussions with the government and industry to help benefit agricultural producers around the clarification and mandatory regulation aligned with Australian export requirements.
“At the moment being certified organic within Australia is a voluntary process, however any producer or manufacturer can claim a product is organic on its packaging with as little as one ingredient being from organic origins,” said AOL CEO Niki Ford.
“Enforcing domestic regulation around this word will give producers, manufacturers and consumers much greater clarity that a product has been rigorously audited against a high-quality standard.”
Demand for certified organic products in Australia is continuing to rise, and is worth $2.6 billion today, compared to $1.93 billion in 2018.
According to Australia Organic, “more than six in 10 shoppers agree that an organic certification mark would increase their trust in organic products,” while over a quarter of shoppers (29 per cent) say that “an organic certification mark would have a strong level of influence over their organic purchasing decisions”.
Paul da Silva of Toowoomba-based Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co., a global supplier of certified organic meat, said lack of mandatory domestic regulation has organic export businesses playing at a perpetual disadvantage, particularly with this year’s challenges.
“Each export market requires proof an Australian organic product meets their own country’s organic standard. This is a fundamental requirement for market access,” said da Silva.
“However, lack of regulation means we often can’t have equivalence with standards in other markets.”
“This forces us and other exporters to go through the full process of getting certification in each separate export market. As we export to nine different countries this can cost thousands of dollars and countless hours per country.”
Angove Organic Wines has released The Future of Organic Report as part of Australian Organic Awareness Month, which found organic certification marks now have strong influence over organic purchasing decisions.
The report further found that since the pandemic, organic farmers and distributors have had “significant sales increases, upwards of 30 per cent, as health concerns spark demand for chemical-free food”, with vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages leading Australia’s organic sectors, worth $804 million and $423 million, respectively.
To qualify as Certified Organic (CO), organic producers must follow a strict list of protocols and adhere to rigorous independent audits. It is 10-step process, which can take 12 months or more before achieving organic certification, with vineyards taking three years before being certified as organic.