We’re at an exciting moment politically for the New Zealand organic world. That’s because our government is working on new regulations for the organic sector.
Wait, what? What industry has ever been excited about facing new regulations? Well, we are excited, and here’s why.
Around the world, in most of the countries that we trade with, there are laws governing how the term ‘organic’ is used. That means consumers get a legal guarantee that when they buy something labelled ‘organic’, it comes from a farm with proper organic accreditation and 100% organic practices.
We want New Zealand’s organic industry to operate with that same level of government-ensured integrity. Groundwork for this has been happening for some time under the current coalition government. We hope that the Minister of Agriculture will soon introduce legislation to Parliament, proposing to regulate the organic market in this country. From our perspective as a collective of organic wine producers, the sooner this legislation passes, the better.
Why is organic regulation important?
New Zealand’s certified organic producers are of the highest integrity, and it’s time for our government to ensure that this remains the case as our organic sector grows.
New Zealand is now one of the only developed countries with no regulation of our organic market. This is creating a risky situation in multiple ways:
• Risks to the market and consumers in New Zealand. Without regulation, consumers in New Zealand have no assurance that organic-labelled products are actually organic. This opens the doorway for fraud and consumer confusion. (Fraud has been very rare so far in the NZ organic world, but when it does happen, it’s hard for anyone to stop it.)
• Threats to global trade. Our lack of organic regulation also puts New Zealand at a disadvantage in international trade. Because we don’t have our own organic standards enshrined in law, it is becoming more difficult for New Zealand to negotiate organic trade agreements with other countries.
• Protecting our reputation. Frankly, it’s almost embarrassing that we don’t have laws around this yet, when some of our trading partners have had such laws in place for decades. Organic regulation will add to New Zealand’s reputation as a top producer of high-integrity products with strong eco-credentials. This is essential to our position in the global marketplace.
Of course, we need to make sure that the government gets this right; regulation needs to support organic producers, not create more bureaucracy. We at Organic Winegrowers New Zealand will be monitoring this situation and advocating for producers as this law goes through Parliament. We will be keeping our members informed and engaged as well.
Why is organic important for New Zealand?
One great thing that everyone in New Zealand can do to support this legal process is to raise your voice to make sure that our elected officials, and our country as a whole, understand the value of organic production.
Organic has so many things going for it right now:
• Global market growth: Organic is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food and beverage market worldwide. Global organic trade is growing consistently every year. This trend is forecast to continue as consumers demand healthy, safe products with high standards of traceability.
• Growing production in New Zealand: Organic production is growing steadily in New Zealand to meet international demand. The 2018 Organic Market Report from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand found that the New Zealand organic sector grew 30% in three years, reaching a value of $600 million per year in 2018. This rapidly growing industry is worth protecting.
• Health and ecological benefits: Organic production protects the health of both farmers and consumers. Just as importantly, organic farming supports a healthy environment, with benefits for our rivers, soils and biodiversity. Organic farming practices also can help make farms more resilient to climate change.
• A better future for New Zealand: As a nation we need to focus on producing high-value, eco-friendly products. This is essential to the health of both our environment and our economy. Organic production is such a clear path to a thriving farming future in New Zealand.
Statistical images sourced from the OANZ Organic Market Report 2018