Woolies organic push bears fruit

WOOLWORTHS wants to grab a bigger share of Australia's booming organic produce market.

The supermarket giant has established a $30 million organic growth fund, in partnership with Heritage Bank, to ensure it has a consistent supply of produce.

The first Queensland beneficiary is Lockyer Valley-based Australian Organic Farmers, which received a $220,500 interest-free loan.

The group will install a state-of-the-art, humidity-controlled storage facility that will prolong the shelf life of sweet potatoes and onions by up to three to five weeks.

Woolworths head of produce Paul Turner said demand for organic produce had grown by 20 per cent annually for the past five years.

Australian Organic Farmers founder Anthony Bauer.
Australian Organic Farmers founder Anthony Bauer.

"We're seeing incredible growth in demand for organic fruit and vegetables and the trend is only set to continue in the years ahead," he said.

"We're delighted to be working with Australia's best organic farmers to build the capacity that will allow us to meet the growing demand for organic produce into the future." Australian Organic Farmers provides around 30 growers with a packing and distribution facility.

"When storms or bad weather came, it meant we had supply issues and customers missed out on produce," founder Anthony Bauer said.

"Now, the funding means we can lock produce in and store it at a perfect temperature. It also means we can harvest bulk lots if we're aware of bad weather and ensure it goes out to our customers to keep consumers happy."

The nation's organic industry now generates $2.6 billion in annual sales of which $1.9 billion is from domestic, according to the latest report from industry body Australian Organic.

Domestic retail sales have doubled over the past decade.

Both major supermarket chains are paying more attention to the segment with Coles rumoured to be considering making takeover offers for a number of organic food retailers including Harris Farm Markets in New South Wales.

Coles also launched a new "Wellness Road" range of health products, which includes a number of dry organic items such as rice noodles and Cacao powder, earlier this year.


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