Creating a Unified Voice for Australia’s Organic Industries

Mar 7, 2018

Organic businesses will be delighted to learn that following five months of consultation, the Australian Organic Industry Working Group (AOIWG) – a body consisting of industry leaders from across Australia established to increase the organic sector’s competitiveness – has developed a roadmap to improve the representation of Australia’s organic industry.

Those consultations revealed the grassroots operators’ highest policy priority is to improve domestic market integrity, with clear failings in the current regulatory arrangements resulting in poor outcomes for many organic producers and consumers.

Also evident was a desire for a new peak body that can effectively represent the interests of the broader industry, overcome the leadership divisions and absence of vision that have thus far characterised the organic industry.

The formation of the new peak body – Organic Industries of Australia – was announced at the Love Organic symposium held in Canberra on February 14 and 15.

This incorporated association, chaired by Greg McNamara, chairman of Norco Co-Operative Limited, will take on the functions of the AOIWG, with the stated vision: “To create a unified voice for Australia’s organic industries to negotiate policy reforms with governments and that helps the industry capitalise on the growing global demand for organic products”.

“The intent of this new peak body is to be representative of all organic operators, regardless of who they’re certified by, which sector they’re in, their size, and whether they export or are locally focussed,” says project manager Tony Webster.

“To match its broad representation objective, Organic Industries of Australia wants to have a broad membership base, where organic operators feel they are welcomed and valued as members. We will be in touch very soon with all organic operators with the details of the membership arrangements.”

Improving the industry’s reputation

The divisions within the organic industry have led it to a poor reputation with state and federal governments; many mainstream producers; the supply chain and influential external stakeholders. As stated in the consultation paper, the organic industry’s leadership needs to eschew divisiveness and act in the interests of the broader industry.

To this end, it’s imperative the industry gets three things right:

  • Value creation: the structure and objectives of the peak body must create value for the industry, by focussing on the industry’s future and the interests of organic growers, processors and traders.
  • Effective regulation: the industry’s self-regulation arrangements must be reformed in the best interests of organic growers, processors and traders, and to promote domestic market integrity and market access abroad.
  • Building trust: to “bring the whole industry along”, the organisational processes must embed strongly democratic mechanisms, embracing representation from all sectors of the industry and a strong emphasis on good governance, including a commitment to transparent processes.

Organic Industries of Australia will also work with all organic leaders with the view to establishing a permanent peak body. Options include merging functions with Australian Organic Ltd, merging with the Organic Federation of Australia, and considering other actions to demonstrate unity of purpose across all certified organic operators.

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