Dave Roby, organic farmer in Lynwood.
Dave Roby, organic farmer in Lynwood. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Farmers want a bigger bite of the organic dollar

MORE than one in 20 Australians are regular shoppers for organics, according to the Australian Organic Market report released on Friday, but farmers are not reaping the benefits.

The independent report was commissioned by the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) and includes research from Swinburne University in Victoria and ABS statistics.

The report found that three in four organic products are now bought at supermarkets, with the organic brand now worth $1.27 billion to Australia.

Australia has the largest area of certified organic land in the world.

An organic farmer since 1990, David Roby was happy to discuss the organic boom at his Lynwood property, south-east of Alstonville.

"Everyone has a different idea of what organic is. Organic farming means sustainability for me. People who buy produce do it for different reasons, like health or nutrition. But people who grow the food do it for environmental issues," he said.

Mr Roby produces beetroot, avocados and rhubarb that he sells at the weekly Lismore Organic Markets.

"I do what I need to do to be organic and I sell everything that I grow, but the consumers want the produce at supermarket prices, not at a price that would give me what they have, such as superannuation, holidays and all that."

His reason for being an organic farmer is clear: "By farming organically here I am looking after my creek and the ocean, I am looking after the soil and I am trying to feed the people around me and any excess can go further.

"Most people think that they live in an economic world and decisions are made on the dollar. And everything they see in the world supports that. The reality is that we live in a biological world.

"As a sustainable farmer, what I have to do is biological and then find a way to make enough money to survive," Mr Roby said.

Mr Roby highlights strange behaviour by organic consumers: "When you go to an organic expo, the things that are most sought after are pet food, wine, chocolate and coffee, no mainstream produce or the basis of their diet. They are looking for luxury.

"People feed their pets organic food but they don't buy it for themselves".

And he is correct, according to the report, with wine grapes as an area of exceptional market growth at 107%.


(% of consumers who claimed they bought in the past year)

 Fruit and veg (60%)

 Cooking ingredients (45%)

 Canned goods (39%)

 Bread (39%)

 Red meat (35%)

 Dairy products (34%)

Source: Biological Farmers of Australia.

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