Naturally Good Expo 2018

Organic growth: Australian industry tops $2.4bn with exports to China and Japan skyrocketing

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Australia's organic exports to China and Japan are surging. ©iStock
Australia's organic exports to China and Japan are surging. ©iStock
The Australian organic industry has been ‘conservatively’ estimated to stand at $2.4bn this year, an 88% increase from 2012, with exports to Asia – most notably China and Japan – enjoying strong growth.

The new data was released at this week’s Naturally Good Expo in Sydney by trade organisation Australian Organic.

Chairman Andrew Monk told us that organic export figures for Australian organic exports now stood at $717m, representing a CAGR of over 40% since 2012 when the number was $126m.

“That’s quite spectacular,”​ he said. “And exports mean more coming into the Australian economy and more investment in jobs and growth.”

He added that there were now 4,028 certified organic operators in 2017, up from 3751 in 2016, “and that’s despite ongoing colnsolidation,”​ he added.

Overall, exports globally remained stable in 2017, in part due below-average rainfall in many regions.

However, the report notes that this picked up towards the end of 2017 and may well provide a boost to 2018’s numbers.

Monk said he was also optimistic of continued export growth due to rising demand in many Asian countries.

“Australia has the most certified organic land in world, at over 35m hectares,”​ he said. “We will remain a powerhouse in terms of organic beef in the US and there is growing demand from Asia, and dairy is doing very well from an infant formula perspective, especially in China.”

Indeed, the report reveals that Japan, China and Singapore saw the largest increases in per tonnage exports in 2017, at 62%, 55% and 6% respectively. This contrasts with a dip of 24% to the US.

“The USA remains the most important export market destination in terms of total tonneage, but has dropped back in 2017, with a comparable increase to mainland China, pushing South Korea out of second place,”​ notes the report.

“Singapore remains a reliable export partner for Australian-produce organics, as does Japan and Hong Kong.”

Aussie trends

In terms of the domestic market, more than 6 in 10 Australian households claim to buy organic in any given year, with 12% of consumers considering themselves to be highly-committed organic purchasers.

The report found that for many Australians, environmental and food safety factors, along with freshness, taste and quality are the most important drivers for making organic purchases.

it also outlined that for 67% of respondents, cost continues to be the biggest barrier to increased purchase of organic food, with ‘trusting it is organic’ coming in second for 40%.

However, Monk told us that growing understanding of certification schemes was helping the industry – with awareness of the Australian Certified Organic ‘bud’ logo increasing to 49% among consumers -  but he added that Australian Organic was continuing to lobby the government for one-single standard for export and domestic market requirements.

“I think that by Christmas this year, the industry will be in a more harmonised space than it has been since the early 1990s,”​ he said, noting discussions to create one single “peak industry body” ​were progressing well.

“This industry is growing up, we’re moving from short pants to long pants​,” he added.

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