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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thailand has the potential to be Australia's Organic Food supplier

Map of ThailandImage via Wikipedia

Organic products are the fastest growing food industry in the world, and in Australia demand is rapidly out stripping supply.

organic fruit and vegetablesImage by val'sphotos via Flickr

Image by val'sphotos via Flickr

The Australian organic industry says that while the local industry is expanding, it's being hampered by a lack of government support.
So importers are now turning to Thailand to fill a production shortage.

article from ABC Radio

Presenter: Stephanie
March Speakers: Andre Leu, chairman, Organic Federation of Australia; Matt Fard, purchase manager, Australian organic wholesaler Eco Farm; Wallop Pichpongsa, president, Thai Organic Trade Association

MARCH: Australian consumption of organic products is increasing by 40 per cent each year. Local production is rising by between six and fifteen percent. The chairman of the Organic Federation of Australia Andre Leu says the retail arm of the organic industry is alone worth more than half a billion US dollars.

LEU: But also if we start to look at flow on effects, like the compost industry, that produces a lot of the raw material for organic farm that is worth about 400 million itself and there are other industries that supply the types of products that we need for organic farming we are worth over a billion dollars to the Australian economy so we are not longer this insignificant little cottage industry.

Organic cultivation of mixed vegetables in Cap...Image via Wikipedia

MARCH: He says despite organic foods being part of the fastest growing industry in the world, there isn't enough support for existing mainstream Australian farmers to adopt organic techniques.

LEU: The problem is the governments who still sort of believe that we are a we are still a fad that is going away, and so they are not getting behind us to help farmers adopt organic techniques because for most farmers its a huge paradigm shift. It's not a matter of doing what you do one day and the next day you stop using chemicals, they will have crop failure. We actually have to train these farmers over years how to bring in organic management systems.

MARCH: Australia is also experiencing it's worst drought on record, making in difficult to grow certain crops - like rice. Andre Leu says ideally Australia's organic production industry will

Mixed bean sproutsImage via Wikipedia

eventually grow to fill demand where it can, but the only solution to the immediate supply shortfall is to increase imports.

LEU: to grow this industry we need to keep our consumers happy so we need to have products on the shelves, and so we need to import.

MARCH: Australia already imports a number of organic products from Europe and the United States, but Thailand now says it wants to increase its stake in the Australian market. Matt Fard, purchase manager for Australian organic wholesaler Eco Farm, says Thailand has a reputation for producing quality organic products.

FARD: In rice products and coconut products they have better quality than China and Sri

Organic certificationImage via Wikipedia

Lankan products.

MARCH: Thailand's organic agricultural industry is worth almost 100-million-US-dollars annually - more than half of which is for export. The president of the Thai Organic Trade Association Wallop Pichpongsa says demand is so strong for their product, that Thai producers are struggling to keep up with certification requirements of emerging markets.

PICHPONGSA: For Thailand as the exporter we have to have certification for the EU, the US, Japan, and Aust require us to have the cert we have to have another one so that is one company or on producer may have to have many certificates.

MARCH: A delegation from the Thai government recently visited an Organic Expo in the Australian city of Melbourne, and now says it's working on streamlining certification guidelines to make it easier for Thai producers to export to Australia. Mr Pichpongsa wants the Thai government to engage in multi-lateral talks with other nations, to establish a universal set of organic certifications, to take the burden off this rapidly growing industry.

Business with Thailand

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