Marketing organic produce

Page last updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017 - 1:27pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The stamp of approval

One of the most daunting tasks for any farmer converting to organic production is the certification process.

On the Australian domestic market there is no specific legislation in place controlling the labelling and sale of organic products. All reputable retailers and processors in Australia, however, will only accept genuine organic product that is certified by an organic certification body that has been accredited by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), or similar authority.

All organic products exported from Australia must be accompanied by an export certificate. It is illegal to export without one. These certificates provide verification that the product is certified organic. They are only issued by DAWR.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) accreditation program aims to coordinate and standardise organic accreditation programs worldwide.

Certification costs

There are a number of organic certifiers in Australia, which are accredited by DAWR or a similar authority to ensure they maintain the required level of supervision of their licensees.

Some organic certifiers are also audited by international organisations in order to maintain export access. These levels of scrutiny come at a cost.

The organic certifiers in Australia operate with a range of structures from co-operatives to private companies. Each has a different fee and membership structure which may change from time to time.

Some agencies offer certification for a range of products while others are industry specific. Some certifiers distinguish between organic and biodynamic production systems while others may specialise in biodynamic production systems only.

Most agencies charge an initial joining fee that may include membership to the organisation, initial inspection costs, soil and tissue testing, administration and review fees.

Each year thereafter, annual inspection, administration and membership costs are required. Fees vary between organic certifiers.

Some certification agencies charge a levy based on the percentage of product sold into the organic marketplace, others charge a flat fee with inspection costs billed separately.

Growers seeking certification are encouraged to undertake research to ensure the certification agency of their choice provides the service they are looking for and will continue to do so in the future.

Co-operate to compete

Forging relationships with other organic producers, ideally in your area, as well as other players along the supply chain such as transporters, wholesalers and retailers can allow you to better compete in your market.

Going it alone is often a high-risk option for many producers, especially small scale enterprises. Entering into informal or formal partnerships, with other producers can guarantee volume and a consistent supply.

Sustaining an effective market for organic produce is often based on a long-term commitment with investment in time, energy and finance.

For those who continue to treat marketing as their own responsibility and as an ongoing commitment to their sustainable farming future, there are rewards and advantages not enjoyed by others who hope that a supply-led mentality will continue to get them by.

Marketing produce locally

Many organic growers may wish to only sell their produce locally.

The increasing emergence of farmers’ markets in rural and urban areas is providing a great platform for organic producers to market their produce. In addition to the usual costs associated with productions, packaging and transport, growers will usually pay a fee for a farmer's market stall site.

In Western Australia, there are already many farmers’ markets established. For details of farmers’ markets visit the Australian Farmers’ Market Association website.

As with any product, marketing organic produce requires you to know your product, the market and your customers. Small producers will also need to know the regulatory requirements surrounding the processing, packaging and storing of organic products. Make sure you do your research.