As the world population continues to grow, Australia could capitalise on organic export markets, says Bond University sustainability professor Tor Hundloe.
He has been investigating Australia’s role in feeding the world, with the global population predicted to hit 9.7 billion in 2050.
Through his most recent research he discovered Australia had the most organically farmed land in the world: more than five times that of Argentina who came in second on the list.
“We are a very large continent and much of Australia is semi-arid or arid.
“On that land chemicals have never been used, fertilisers have never been used, pesticides, so it’s basically virgin country, organic country, as it is,” he said.
“We’ve [also] got land that is fairly easily converted from conventional farming back to organic, and I’m thinking about dairying country where that land can revert to being organic.”
He said the potential to produce greater amounts of organic food was of huge benefit to Australian farmers.
Professor Hundloe said he had been watching trends overseas and there was a steady increase in the number of people who wanted to buy “cleaner, greener” food.
“We’ve got a good chance of feeding those wealthier people in China and South East Asia.
“They’re demanding the sort of product we have [such as] good, clean beef, milk and cereal,” said Professor Hundloe.
“When our fruit and vegetables are coming on in summer it is winter in northern Asia and we can supply fruit and vegetables into those markets.
“We predict China is going to produce an enormous amount of beef as the middle class of China becomes richer.
“We are in a beaut position to capitalise on export markets.”
Organic marketing a hurdle
While there have been supply shortages domestically for organic food, Professor Hundloe said there was actually more organic food available than people knew.
He said the problem was marketing.
“We’re just not labelling enough of it [food] as organic,” Professor Hundloe said.
To further understand the role of organic farming in future food production, Professor Hundloe will travel throughout Australia with three students.
The team has already travelled throughout Central Queensland and interviewed a number of large-scale organic beef and sheep producers.
Now they are headed south, to south-east Queensland, to speak with small-scale, organic farmers in the Gympie and Mary Valley region.
“Gympie is on the list because the old dairy industry around Gympie has changed dramatically, and that land has been taken over by small scale beef farmers, pig farmers [and] fruit and vegetable farmers,” Professor Hundloe said.
“Gympie is very close to the Sunshine Coast which is a prime market for organic food.
“It is close to Brisbane so it is the perfect place for the small scale, organic farming industry in Australia.
He said there were many other farming communities throughout the nation which would be able to make the same transition Gympie has seen.
“Anywhere down into New South Wales and Victoria, Tasmania and over in the west too.
“Anywhere where there were dairy farms… they are ideal farms for the small scale, intensive, organic farming.”