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Health concerns drive organic farming growth

Angela PownallThe West Australian
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Organic farming is predicted to be Australia’s biggest growth industry this year as health and environmental concerns drive an estimated 14 per cent increase on its $416 million revenue last year.

Economic analysts IBISWorld yesterday revealed organic farming as its top tip for growth in 2011, followed by the video games trade, electricity distributors, motorcycle dealers and domestic airlines.

Robert Bryant, from IBISWorld, said demand for organic products had increased steadily over the past five years and the strong growth was supported by major retailers such as Coles, Woolworths and McDonald’s.

“Higher disposable incomes coupled with rising awareness of environmental sustainability — and the increased convenience of organic foods — all point to continuing growth, ” Mr Bryant said.

Organic farming revenue is expected to increase more than $58 million to $475 million this year.

Loren McMath, co-owner of North Perth grocery store Organic on Charles, said her business had almost 30 per cent annual growth over the past two years after opening three years ago.

“Most people do it for health, ” she said. “It’s a personal health decision. For some, it’s because of ill health.

“There are a lot of young families who have stopped and thought about what they are feeding their children. Then some people do it for environmental reasons.”

Ms McMath said there had been a vast improvement in the supply and variety of organic food. Her store sourced 50 per cent of its produce from WA. As more growers became certified, supply chains got better and had improved “out of sight” in the past three years.

Consumer group Choice said stronger labelling laws were needed to inform shoppers about organic foods and explain prices.

IBISWorld predicted the video game industry, which netted $3.6 billion last year, would grow 11.9 per cent this year.

Industries predicted to do it tough are wired telecommunications, apple and pear growers, telecommunications resellers and the recorded media industry.

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