New organics legislation will boost consumer confidence and help grow an innovative sector, says Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor.
"The Organics Product Bill, introduced to Parliament this week, aims to increase consumer confidence when purchasing organic products, allow businesses to make claims that their products are organic with certainty, and promote international trade in organic products," O'Connor said.
The Bill outlines the processes businesses must follow for approval to market products as organic, and national standards for production rules organic businesses must follow.
"It's important consumers trust what they are buying is organic. Consumers have voiced their concerns about questionable and confusing organic product claims. National standards will give consumers confidence in organic products," he said.
"Businesses will be able to invest and innovate in this growing sector with certainty their organic products can be trusted by consumers and our international trading partners.
"This new Bill will also bring us more in line with the way our major trading partners regulate organics, to help grow our organic export market" O'Connor added.
Recent research shows demand for organics is increasing.
The U.S. organics market alone is currently worth more than NZ$70 billion, and the EU organics market is worth around NZ$65b.
"We've seen a cumulative growth in the EU organics market by 460 per cent since 2000," O'Connor said.
"The number of organic producers in the Oceania region has almost tripled since 2006."
Meantime, domestic and global demand for New Zealand organics saw the sector grow 30 per cent between 2015 and 2018 to be worth more than $600m, according a report from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand.
The report also showed organic fresh fruit and vegetable exports were up 24 per cent, dairy, meat and wool exports up 45 per cent, and wine exports up 13 per cent from just three years prior.
"Now is the time to put a framework in place to help sustain and enhance this growth" O'Connor said.
"The Bill can apply to any type of organic product once a standard is in place. Specific requirements and an organic standard will be developed to apply the new organics framework to different types of products.
"Initially we'll focus on developing requirements and standards for organic food, beverages, and plant and animal products. Requirements for other products will be developed in the future."
Organic Farm NZ chair Jim Bennett said the Bill was an important step for industry.
"We look forward to contributing to the growth of the organic sector for the benefit of both consumers and the environment," Bennett said.
Chair of the Organic Exporters Association Alice Moore and her members are pleased to see the Bill introduced.
"This legislation will establish a foundation for greater investment in organic food production in New Zealand, and enable greater trade of organic products with our export partners," she said.
After its First Reading in Parliament, the Organic Products Bill will be sent to Parliament's Primary Production Select Committee for the public to have their say.
"I encourage everyone to get involved and make their views heard," O'Connor said.