The Himalayan state recently announced its intention to be pesticide free in the next 10 years so New Zealand is now under pressure to meet its stated aim in time.
"This is an accolade that should be our own" says Debbie Swanwick of Organic NZ. "The rest of the world holds our clean, green image in high regard and we should live up to that expectation.”
As the first nation to give women the vote and to declare itself nuclear free, New Zealand has coveted the idea of being the world’s first 100% organic food producer. But in spite of its isolation and apparent quirkiness, Bhutan has the potential to pose a real threat to its south Pacific green rival.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is bordered by China and India, both strong trading partners with New Zealand. With a population of just over 700,000, mostly Buddhist and two-thirds of whom depend on farming for their livelihoods, they have an enviable approach to economic development, centred on protecting the environment and focusing on mental well-being.
And let’s not forget that this is a country that can make things happen. For instance, in 2010, it introduced some of the world’s strictest anti-smoking laws, albeit stopping short of outlawing the practice altogether. And now it is targeting environmentally friendly business.
"Bhutan has decided to go for a green economy in light of the tremendous pressure we are exerting on the planet," said Bhutan’s agriculture minister, Pema Gyamtsho, at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development last year. "If you go for very intensive agriculture it would imply the use of so many chemicals, which is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature."
Michelle Glogau, CEO of organic certifier BioGro’s, said: “We strongly believe that organics should be the standard rather than alternative way of growing, processing and trading in New Zealand–for the wellbeing of our environment and communities and animals. The ongoing success of our certified-organic producers is proof enough that consumers in New Zealand and around the world want more [organics] of what we have got”.
The 2010-2012 Organic Market Report, commissioned by Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, reports that in 2012 the NZ organics export market grew by 25% from 2009 to NZ$220m dollars. Between 2007 and 2012 the total land area under organic certification increased by 67% and the country’s export market now accounts for 77% of the the total organic sector.