The Organic Products Bill, introduced to Parliament on March 1, means a national standard for organic production is on its way.
Regulations under the new standard are still in the drafting stages – but once in place, organic-producing businesses will have to be certified organic by a relevant government industry, and making a claim without certification can be fined under the Commerce Act.
Coastal Kiwis Orchard owners Mark and Catriona White, who grow kiwifruit organically at Opotiki, say the standard will give credibility to New Zealand organic producers, and is therefore welcomed by those in the industry.
“We have been in organics for 13 years, and the need for regulations has probably been discussed amongst those in the industry for that entire time,” says Mark.
“It has taken a lot of people and hard work to get to this point, so it’s exciting for many of us. It will be great for us to have clarity, and to be on par with other fair trading nations.”
Out of the top 25 organic markets in the world, only New Zealand and one other country have standards that are voluntary, not mandatory.
According to a government press release, global demand and local supply of organic products is rising. The European Union organics market is worth around NZ$65 billion, and the US market is worth upwards of NZ$70 billion. The number of organic producers in Oceania has almost tripled since 2006.
Mark says the benefits of the bill go beyond economic gain. “Timing is everything, and the standard has come when protecting the environment is of the utmost importance. It will help organics step forward as a viable way to grow food for our future.”
Catriona says having the standard will be assuring to both consumers and producers. “Consumers being able to have faith in organic claims on products is huge. It covers not just food, but pharmaceuticals and clothing as well.”
“We thank Agriculture and Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor for pushing for the standard to become a reality. He’s been working on this for a long time, and has committed to having those in the industry be part of the political process.
“We are happy that with all of the things the Government has to prioritise, they’ve chosen organics to be one of them.”
The public can make submissions on the proposed Organic Products Bill in coming months.