Smaller organic food producers could be the victim of changes to prevent greenwashing
Tasmania is more than pulling its weight with organic and sustainable food production, according to the most recent market research report by Australian Organics.
But questions remain over how changes to industry regulations could impact smaller producers.
In January the Agriculture, Water and the Environment Department launched an Organic Industry Advisory Group to look into Australia’s regulatory system for organic produce.
Contributing $2.6 billion to the economy every year and growing, organic food is big business.
According to a DAWE spokesperson, Australia is well placed to capitalise on the global organic markets, and by doing so is helping the agricultural industry achieve its target of $100 billion by 2030.
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Tasmania’s average organic farm is the smallest land area per certified operation in Australia. According to the 2019 market research report, this trend reflects Tasmania’s focus away from conventional farming commodities, instead aiming for small scale farming of organic produce
From the roadside “honesty system” pantries scattered around the countryside, to the ever-popular weekend farmers markets, Tasmanians love supporting small, local producers.
Launceston’s Harvest Market is a weekly pilgrimage for many in the community keen to buy produce as close to the source as possible.
Harvest manager Kim Hewitt knows of many market stall holders who farm in an organic or biodynamic manner, often going “above and beyond what organic certification requires”.
However, she said often these producers were too small to attain certification – a process which can be both time-consuming and costly.
While Ms Hewitt supports a tightening of regulations for big producers, she has concerns that sweeping changes may negatively impact the smallest producers.
“I support any changes that will tighten up the labelling of organics and reduce the amount of greenwashing, but when it’s being driven by peak bodies, I wonder if any consideration is given to those very small producers who practice organic farming practices, but can’t get certified because they simply can’t afford it,” she said.
Andy Jackman, of Red Cow Organics, is also unsure if regulatory changes should be the focus.
Red Cow Organics is a certified organic dairy from Oldina in the state’s North-West. Ms Jackman has been pleased with the process of organic certification, but believes that education is key to the ongoing success of the organic food industry.
The recommendations from the Organic Industry Advisory Group are yet to be published.
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