Organic Gippsland: What’s it Worth?

Overall cost:$22,900

Grant sought:$7,900


Grant awarded:$7,900

Why this project:
A lack of understanding and of data about the organic agricultural industry has a detrimental effect on its development and limits investment in the industry.

Project goals:
To describe the industry and its potential, and to estimate the farm-gate value of organic agriculture in Gippsland. A survey was carried out to accomplish this in terms of both monetary and non-monetary values.

Project outcome:
The study collected information from 38 organic farms in Gippsland, representing 88 per cent of an identified possible total group of 43 farmers, and a likely larger percentage of total production. Data were collected with the aid of a questionnaire, interviews and discussions with industry sources, who provided examples of organic export and innovative marketing methods. See report for more details.

People involved:
Ms Liz Clay, Bioscape, Piedmont
Dr Els Wynen, Eco Landuse Systems, Canberra

The total farm-gate value of the organic industry was $14.5 million for 2015. Horticulture is the largest sector ($8.35 million) followed by dairy ($4.63 million) and beef ($1.16 million).

The potential for growth of the organic farming industry in Gippsland appears to be strong due to a number of factors. Apart from the natural environment including reliable rainfall and soil quality, grower interest and a booming market for organic produce are likely to be contributing factors.

There is a big range of business sizes, with some very large, some medium and many small-scale producers able to generate satisfactory livelihoods – this last group possibly because of premiums based on organic branding and short supply chains. Organic farming has been practised for many years in Gippsland, with some farmers starting 40 (vegetables), 19 (beef) and 26 (dairy) years ago. On average, organic farming had been practised close to 16 years by vegetable farmers, 13 by dairy farmers, and almost 12 by beef farmers.

The average age of organic farmers in the group was 55 years. This could represent a risk factor for the industry as the current cohort moves into retirement. However, this age is lower than for the conventional comparison. Although the uptake by the next generation is uncertain, several organic farms were operating with more than one generation. 90 full-time equivalent jobs were generated by the businesses surveyed. Over half of these (63 per cent) were within families.

The report discusses growth possibilities for organic exports such as dairy, meat and other foods, and innovative marketing possibilities such as food hubs and farmers markets.

That an independent body be established that is responsible for undertaking the collection of data on the organic industry in Gippsland bi-annually, and maintaining the database.

That a more pro-active and involved role for government at state and local levels, and for regional bodies, be pursued to become better informed about the industry and consumer trends, so that effective lobbying and advocacy can take place for the organic sector to capitalise on emerging opportunities for growth and innovation.

That a formal triple bottom line accounting approach be incorporated to study and report on the industry, with consideration given to social and environmental as well as financial values generated.

That social media and other e-based marketing is used as an increasingly significant factor for the financial viability of smaller niche producers.

Clay, L. and Wynen, E. (2016), Organic Gippsland: What’s it Worth? Report for Regional Development Victoria, Schedule No. OPP142736, hosted by Baw Baw Shire, May.