Tasmanian dairy farmers urged to go organic as demand surges

Tasmanian dairy farmers are being urged to consider converting to organic production with demand for organic milk expected to grow by 20 per cent every year for the next five years.

     National organic certifier, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), is planning conversion workshops later this year aimed at attracting producers to organic production.

NASAA general manager Ben Copeman said there was a shortfall in supply of organic products nationwide.

     "Demand for organic supply has gone through the roof and consumers are wanting to know more and more about where their products are coming from," he said.

     "Each of the organic certifiers will have to increase their numbers by 20 per cent per year for the next five years if we are to maintain supply in order to satisfy 

      We aren't promoting the message well enough and getting more Tasmanian dairy producers to become organic.

Ben Copeman  

     Tasmanian organic infant formula company Bellamy's Organics is forced to source a portion of its organic milk from other parts of Australia and New Zealand due to a shortfall in local supply.

     The company started out as a family owned Launceston business in 2004 and is now listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with offices due to open in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

      Mr Copeman said the company's growing demand for organic milk is unable to be wholly met in Tasmania.

"I know Bellamy's would much prefer to buy it locally if they could get it, rather than having to import it from the mainland or in some cases New Zealand," he said.

     "We, as certification bodies, aren't promoting the message well enough and getting more Tasmanian dairy producers to become organic."

Resisting organic production a 'commercial decision'

     DairyTas chairman Cheryl McCartie said there had not been a supply chain or market for organic milk in Tasmania. "It's a commercial decision," she said.

     "So that boils down to where people see the long-term sustainability of their business and profitability," she said. "That really comes down to markets and the sustainability of markets."

For most farmers they will make their individual commercial decisions based on what the 

profitability is going to be for their business.

Cheryl McCartie

     Mr Copeman said NASAA was working to address fears held by dairy farmers contemplating a conversion.

"One of the big fears they have is 'where do we get organic food supplements from?', so we have to help them through that," he said.

     "The other fear they have is 'where do we sell it?', we have our organic milk, we then need to have special trucks, we need to have a processor who's certified organic and then we need to have a market where we can sell it.

"We try and introduce them to each of those steps to remove that fear of the unknown."

     Farmers hold concerns about the cost of conversion, particularly during the three years it takes to gain certification when farmers are not being paid a premium for their milk.

     Mr Copeman said that cost was more than covered by the premium paid once certification was achieved.

     'In-conversion' milk does not attract much of a premium," he said.

     "I think it's up to the Bellamy's and other processors and supermarkets where they need to pay a bit of a premium for 'in-conversion' milk and that will encourage more people to become certified."

     Ms McCartie said it was up to individual farmers 

SOURCE:  ABC Australia Online