'We've got to move': Lack of regulation on organic farming holding back export potential

The industry is worth around $600 million.
The industry is worth around $600 million. Photo credit: Getty

The organic farming industry says while it backs proposed regulations for the sector it feels "a little bit let down" by the Government's plans.

A single standard of certification is planned for organic products in the country and while most agree it is necessary there is no consensus yet on exactly how that should look.

Organics Aotearoa New Zealand chairman Chris Morrison says there has been a "disconnect" between what was consulted on and the draft Bill presented.

"We're feeling a little bit let down in that we've been through a consultation period with MPI [the Ministry for Primary Industries] a couple of years ago, it was a good process but we really haven't had any chance to have any dialogue on that recently," Morrison told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Friday.

Almost all of the more than 70 people or organisations submitting on the Bill opposed it

One of the issues Morrison identified was a lack of definition of organic. He said he was also concerned about the costs involved in certifying producers.

"That's a concern to the farmers and growers around the country because they're already paying levies for different reasons and we don't want to add cost - we want to keep it simple," he said.

"We're very happy with the system as it is at the moment but we absolutely feel that regulation is important for consumers, so that they can trust the word organic when they're shopping, and also for our export markets."

He said New Zealand was "a little late to the party" when it came to having a standard for the industry, which is worth around $600 million, and we were also behind other countries in the number of organic producers.

"I think there's less than 2 percent of the land in New Zealand that's certified organic and we've seen other countries, our competitors in trade, where the other numbers are much higher - so we've got to move, we've got to get on there," he said.

"It's really good for New Zealand, for brand New Zealand... we're perceived to be producing that and I think organics fits there very well."

Despite the disagreements, Morrison said Organics Aotearoa supported the principle of the Bill and was confident an agreement could be reached between industry and Government.