5 July 2002

Kiwi organic exports pose threat

BRITISH organic producers could face greater competition from Kiwi supplies following an agreement with the EU to ease restrictions on imports.

The EU has accepted New Zealands Official Organic Assurance Program for organic exports, giving that countrys exporters greater long-term market access stability, according to Organic Products Exporters of New Zealand (OPENZ).

"This will simplify access for organic products exported to the EU because it will avoid the need for NZ exporters to obtain import licenses from individual states within the EU," it says.

Oliver Dowding, chairman of the NFU organic committee, was concerned about the possible impact on British farmers. "Although were not looking at a large volume, it is a foot in the door that is the worrying factor."

New Zealands total organic industry is forecast to quadruple to NZ$500m (£159m) over the next four years, with Europe taking 40% of its exports. Although fresh fruit makes up over 70% of organic exports, processed food totals 14%, and meat and wool have doubled to 7%.

"A number of large supermarkets in the UK are demanding organic product lines to complement their conventional supplies," said OPENZ executive director Jon Manhire.

A spokesman for Tesco said the supermarket could not guarantee continuity of domestic supply. "But were working hard with the industry to step up production in the UK, and I dont think this will change our desire to use more British produce."

Mr Dowding was convinced the UK could fill any gaps in supply, and said supermarkets only bought imports because of a perceived short-term advantage on price. "Its a fallacy to think we need to import, and its only going to mess up our prices." &#42