We are currently seeing a rapid rise of interest in organic farming, particularly in fresh fruit and vegetable production. This is similar to what was seen in California twenty years ago.
Large-scale conventional farmers started allocating a proportion of their land to organics so they could satisfy the market demand. They found that they could easily do this because they were good growers, to begin with. They found they could grow organically and it was very profitable for them.
The change we see at the moment in Australia is driven by consumer demand. About three years ago the major supermarkets recognised that they were undersupplying the organic market segment for fresh organic produce by 25 to 30%.
The supermarket chains went to their current organic suppliers to try to fill those gaps. Some of the better growers were asked to increase their production by, not 10 or 20%, but three to five times more than they were producing the previous year. The growth of this scale would be a challenge for any business. Some managed to upscale in that short timeframe. Many could not.
The supermarkets quickly realised that it would be a challenge to meet the demand for organic produce through the existing organic channels. They would need to go to their main conventional growers and convince them to add some organic crops.
For the very first time, conventional farmers in Australia had a financial incentive to explore organic farming strategies. Both organic and conventional farmers were able to look to the American experience. They could draw on the twenty years of research and development in producing commercial quantities of organic produce.
Happily, for us, there are not many businesses in this area that can confidently put together full organic programmes that work for a grower. We’ve found ourselves busy supporting organic growers, as well as conventional growers, meet new market demand.
If you are an organic grower or a conventional grower interested in expanding your organic production, please get in touch. There’s no doubt the opportunity is out there, and we’d be pleased to help you make the most of it.