NZ organic sector deserves support seen in Europe
4 November 2005
NZ organic sector deserves levels of support seen in Europe
New Zealand's organic sector urgently needs the sort of political and institutional support it receives in European countries, Green Party Organics Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.
She made her remarks as guest speaker at the launch today of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. The Greens recent cooperation agreement with the Government includes a commitment to fund organic advisory services, a move the Party sees as the first step towards substantive support for the sector.
"When it comes to organics, New Zealand lags way, way behind European countries like Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom," Ms Kedgley says.
"Extraordinarily, despite the promotion of our clean green image overseas, less than one percent of our agricultural land is in organic production - a tiny 0.24 percent. To put that into sharper perspective, Austria has some 12.5 percent of its farmland in organic production. New Zealand's lack of vision and commitment means it is missing out on the expanding international niche market for organic food."
Ms Kedgley says she cannot understand why a country that markets itself as being the leading edge of innovative agriculture has been so slow to embrace organics.
"One of the problems is that there is no real incentive to switch to organics, as producers and growers are not required to pick up the real environmental cost of conventional agriculture - the taxpayers and society as a whole are picking up the tab. I am astonished that there is still an institutional lack of support, and even outright hostility, to organics in some sections of government."
The major financial support for organics in Europe now comes through the EU's agri-environment programme. Support takes the form of advisory and research services, procurement policies, consumer education and payments made to farmers as a way to recognise the that they are not placing as great a load on the environment. In 2003 support for organic farming amounted to EUR86 million in Austria and EUR100 million in Germany. Since 1995, interest and dividends on investments in organic activities in the Netherlands have been tax-free and organic producers and processors have been able to get loans at reduced interest rates.
"Providing institutional support and incentives to convert to organic and more sustainable farming practices makes simple economic sense," Ms Kedgley says.
"By switching to organics we solve most of the environmental, health and social problems that we have created with industrialised and conventional food production. It repairs our damaged soils, protects our wildlife, cuts down on energy, oil and water consumption, reduces the pollution of our waterways and, importantly, ensures animals are treated with respect. Why on earth wouldn't we support incentives to create all of those environmental and other savings?"
Ms Kedgley's speech to OANZ is at www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/speech9349.html