<strong Consumers are wholeheartedly embracing organic produce and sales figures continue to rise rapidly.
Despite the drought, sales by organic farmers have increased by more than 80% since 2004, said a new report released last week.
40% of Australians now buy organic food at least occasionally, with women most likely to do so.
The study by the University of New England’s Organic Research Unit found that some large supermarkets now carry more than 500 different organic lines.
That increased availability has helped boost retail sales quickly, topping $625 million last year.
The spread of farmers’ markets has also helped boost popularity, said the report commissioned by the Biological Farmers of Australia.
The main reasons given by shoppers for choosing organics were health, concern for the environment and better taste.
But researchers warn the absence of an official definition of “organic” in several produce lines may have skewed some figures.
Higher prices are still a barrier to people buying more, but resistance based on the poor appearance of organic produce seems to be fading.
At 12 million hectares, Australia has the largest amount of certified organic farmland in the world and Queensland is the capital with 94% of the total – much of it being used for grazing organic beef cattle.
The number of organic growers is climbing by about 5% a year, to 2750 last year.