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Organic Farming - Naturally Better?

07-May-2013

Organically farmed carrots

Beginning at local community level in the 1940’s, the organic farming & sustainable agriculture movement has grown considerably to become a multimillion dollar industry with exports across the world.

The organic agriculture sector began in orchards & vegetable gardens as an alternative to the use of synthetic chemicals in farming & food production.

As the organic farm sector grew, larger commercial enterprises began to develop these skills & techniques from their smaller domestic counterparts.  In 1993, the New Zealand Biological Producers and Consumers Council (BioGro), was established to support & certify producers prior to the beginnings of the export industry.

Although organic systems are now used throughout New Zealand, with international demand fuelling the successful export of organic products – the majority of new Zealand farms continue to use conventional farming systems.

What is organic farming?

Defining Organic Agriculture

Focusing on the cycles and balances of nature, the organic farming philosophy intends to produce high quality, nutritious crops or meat without the use of synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, aiming to exclude any livestock growth drugs, antibiotics or other additives (which may have adverse health effects). The philosophy also fosters biodiversity, less intensive livestock management  together with practices to create & maintain fertile soils in a sustainable manner.

This method of farm management tends to be more labour intensive & of lower yield resulting in higher consumer prices than those of conventional farming systems.

Methods Of Organic Farming:

  • Stock is grazed intensively on frequent rotation of small land areas with mixed pastures to minimise the risk of internal & external parasites. Livestock breed is selected for resilience to parasites
  • The soil has extensive compost, naturally occurring mineral fertilisers & animal manures added to enhance & maintain the soil.
  • Alternatives to chemical sprays are used to kill weeds including mechanical treatment or boiling water.
  • Control of pests & diseases is managed through biological methods such as insect predators of insect pests.

Where Next For Organic Farming?

With a global growth rate of nearly 8% per Annum, organics is the fastest growing food sector in the world and valued at  over US $60 billion (2012).

The New Zealand organic sector is estimated to be valued between $340-$360 million (export & domestic retail sales) & has grown by almost 25% since 2009.

New Zealand organic exports are also growing in value according to Organics Aotearoa (OANZ), led by fresh fruit at $96m (45%) of total exports, followed by the dairy category which has grown by 33% since 2009.

Although both the global & local organic sectors have produced startling consumer growth in the past decades, production & processing costs remain higher than for conventional farming or agriculture.

In spite of the global recession, organic products continue to be in demand, showing that even now healthy growth may be achievable.

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