Certification, standards and regulation
In 2008 there were four private agencies offering organic certification for New Zealand producers and processors: AgriQuality, BioGro, Organic Farm New Zealand and the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. Converting from conventional to organic farming takes two to three years. There are no organic labelling laws in New Zealand – domestic trade in organic products is governed by fair trading laws.
Organic producers in New Zealand wanting to export their products must comply with the national or international standards for their market.
Education and training
The government has played a minimal role promoting knowledge of organic farming. Until recently, most growers learned through trial and error and personal networks. Since the late 1990s a number of tertiary institutes have set up training in organics.
In 2007 a number of agencies were doing small-scale research on organics in New Zealand, although there was little co-ordination among them.
Some of the research agencies are:
- Kowhai Farm, Lincoln University, researching organic crops
- Biological Husbandry Unit, Lincoln University, researching numerous aspects of organics
- Massey University, running a paired trial comparing a conventional and organic dairy farm
- HortResearch, developing disease-resistant apple varieties
- AgResearch, with a long-established BioGro-certified block on its Ballantrae sheep farm, which is used for comparison with conventionally farmed blocks.
In the early 2000s there was strong demand for organic products, although many consumers were reluctant to pay high prices for them. Cafés, restaurants and farmers’ markets offering organic produce have sprung up around the country. The range of organic products in supermarkets has increased significantly since the early 1990s.
The future of organics in New Zealand depends on:
- the continuing expansion of export markets
- the continuing increase in numbers of farmers converting to organics
- food processors, distributors, retailers and exporters being willing to handle organic produce
- researchers investigating solutions and strategies for organic farms, gardens and orchards
- education providers getting involved in the organic sector
- political support.