New Zealand organic products are clocking up export orders after a successful showing at the world's largest organic trade fair in Germany.
"I have had my eyes opened to the true extent and possibilities of the organics market - it's really huge," says David Mitchell, the Managing Director of DM Palmer, one of the seven New Zealand organisations that have just returned from the event.
This year was the first time DM Palmer (which exports organic apples and squash) had attended the massive organics fair, and David Mitchell says he was blown away by the variety of items there - and the amount of interest in New Zealand's organic products.
"We picked up new customers in Europe and South East Asia - there are people at Biofach from all over the world. It was well worth the effort of going."
Zespri, New Zealand's largest organic producer, has attended Biofach for several years and saw a 'significant upsurge' in interest in organics this year, says Zespri's Technology Transfer Manager Stuart Abbott.
"Biofach has increased at least 20% in size over last year. It's truly massive now," he says.
Mr Abbott believes the collective approach, which sees all organics companies exhibiting overseas come under the New Zealand brand, gives this country's organics producers real strength.
"Respect for the New Zealand brand is more important in organics than in other areas. We are seen as clean, non-corrupt and trustworthy, and that gives us a lot of weight. Producers need to think very carefully before they move away from that. "
Jill Bradley, Managing Director of Ocean Organics, which manufactures organics fertilizers and liquid sprays, agrees that New Zealand has a very good name in the organics world.
"Our products are highly sought after. It is the second year we have attended Biofach, and we are delighted with the response we got. We are working through a ton of enquiries, some of which will lead to orders. As a result of contacts made at Biofach we also currently have trials going on at the French Organic Research Institute, and our products are being trailed by key organics farmers in Europe."
This year was the first time that New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra joined the New Zealand stand, and Trade New Zealand's Sector Specialist in Horticulture and Organics, Peter Healy, sees its presence at Biofach as lending enormous weight and credibility to New Zealand's organics movement.
"When a large multi-national takes organics seriously, you know that this is big business", he says. "Fonterra expects a significant proportion of its dairy exports to be organic in the future."
"We left with a number of serious follow up companies who wish to pursue business with us," says Rick Carmont of Fonterra. "There is no doubt that our presence at Biofach was beneficial."
The organics sector currently accounts for $60 million of New Zealand exports, though that can be hard to quantify because some exporters, such as leading wine companies, do not specify which of their products are organic.
Peter Healy hopes local companies take notice of the demand overseas, which is happening in parallel to high local demand.
"There is a danger that some producers may take the easier route of just selling to the local market rather than exporting", he says. "For some, it is easier to sell at the farm gate than it is to face the complexities of exporting. But the export market is where the real opportunities lie."
New Zealand companies exhibiting at Biofach 2003 were:
Organic Product Exporters of New Zealand (OPENZ)
The organisation representing organic producers, which has more than 60 members.
The country's leading organic certifier and organic producers' association.
DM Palmer (Auckland)
Exporters of fresh New Zealand produce (apples and squash), which focus on being a service provider and facilitator between growers, customers and markets.
New Zealand's biggest dairy exporter, which produces a range of dairy products using organic milk sourced from New Zealand dairy farms.
Ocean Organics (Paeroa)
Produces a range of New Zealand liquid organic seaweed fertilisers and foliage sprays, as well as hand-made creams and soaps.
Producers of cold pressed extra virgin avocado oil.
Tapestry Knitwear (Auckland)
Promoting its high quality organic wool sweaters and accessories.
Zespri International Ltd
With its Zespri Organic range of kiwifruit. The largest exporter of organic produce from New Zealand.
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