The Australian government has signalled that it believes the time may have arrived for the country to establish a mandatory organic standard for the first time.
Australia is currently an anomaly among major economies in that only voluntary standards for organic apply.
Although a national organic standard has existed since the 1990s, it has never been enforced.
But in late December 2020, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud called on the Department of Agriculture to appoint an Organics Industry Advisory Group to investigate the creation of a nationwide regulatory framework for organic production and sales.
The new group will review whether Australia’s current domestic regulatory framework is fit for purpose – and look at how the regulatory environment can be improved to help develop and grow the country’s organic industry.
Australian Organic, the country’s lead organic body, has welcomed the development and says that a mandatory domestic standard “would bring Australia in line with the rest of the world and deliver much-needed efficiency and certainty to organic producers”.
CEO, Niki Ford, said: “Australia has a $2.6 billion organic industry yet is one of the only developed nations in the world not to have a domestic standard for the use of the word ‘organic’, placing us well out of step with our international competitors.
“With no mandatory standard currently in place, industry is being compromised given the lack of consistency for producers. This also leaves exporters in a frustrating and expensive position”
“With no mandatory standard currently in place, industry is being compromised given the lack of consistency for producers. This also leaves exporters in a frustrating and expensive position where they must pay separate fees to meet specific regulations in each individual customer country.
“Our organic producers are world-leaders in terms of quality and innovative production systems, and this change stands to not only simplify processes, reduce red tape and strengthen market access but to also provide consumers with greater confidence when choosing to buy organically-labelled products.”
National Farmers’ Federation CEO, Tony Mahar, said that the efforts of Australian Organic and others to press for regulatory improvements had provided vital moment. He said: “Australia’s current approach to organic production limits our market access for Australian organic producers, affects consumer confidence and increases the economic burden on industry.”