After almost a decade in the process, the organics community has welcomed the passing of the industry’s Organic Products and Production Act, finally bringing New Zealand into line with major trading partners.
The act promises to ensure more robust, international standards for all organic food and beverage production, and a national certification symbol attached to all products that pass muster.
Organics Aotearoa NZ CEO Tiffany Tompkins said the passing of the bill is timely, as pressure is mounting from the European Union for NZ to deliver on a nationally certified scheme.
“The EU has introduced legislative changes for its own standards and it was re-evaluating its equivalency to trading partners. It is absolutely crucial our legislation got through by the end of 2024, or we would lose that EU market access.”
The EU is NZ’s third-largest organic trading partner, accounting for $74 million of the $620m export trade, behind the United States and China.
While it has not been as forceful as the EU, the US has also been calling for NZ to develop a national standard.
Tompkins said globally growth in organic food and beverages continues to be strong, running at about 9% a year.
“But in NZ we have only been getting about 6% growth rate. Our hope is the act will ensure that growth can be lifted further.”
At present one of the strongest growth areas globally is for certified organic wine, and Tompkins said the EU and US simply cannot secure enough of the product.
The new legislation will provide consumers with the certainty of a certification mark, something that had been ad hoc in the past, dependent upon producers’ claims.
Tompkins said the most damaging thing about the lack of national organic standards is in the minds of NZ consumers who do not have the same understanding of what organics means, compared to many overseas consumers.
“There has been a lack of trust there. When the government gets behind something there is a lot more consumer awareness, and we have missed out on that.”
The NZ domestic organic market is worth about $100m a year.
Chair of the Organic Exporters Association and Fonterra’s organic division Andrew Henderson said the association welcomes the completion of the bill through Parliament.
“This legislation will establish a foundation for greater investment in organic food production in New Zealand, improve market access and promote international trade for NZ organic products,” he said.