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Organic NZ winegrowers 'can't keep up with demand'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand is calling for more grape growers to convert to organic production to meet growing international demand.

There is currently a shortage of organic winegrapes in New Zealand.

"I’m constantly fielding phone calls from established wine companies and new wine companies looking to purchase organic fruit, because they’re seeing and being asked for it in markets around the world, and the supply’s not there," says Bart Arnst. Arnst is an organic viticultural consultant based in Marlborough. He also produces The Darling organic wine, in partnership with winemaker Chris Darling.

"BioGro receives regular queries about the availability of organic grapes for sale, but there is currently a gap in supply," concurs Jared White, senior auditor for the organic certification body BioGro NZ. BioGro certify the majority of organic vineyards in New Zealand.

Now is the time of year for more growers to consider becoming organic. The organic certification process takes three years once the last conventional spray is applied to a property. Therefore, it is common for growers to record their last conventional product use just before harvest, so that in three years’ time, their harvest can be fully certified organic.

"It takes 36 months to convert a vineyard to organic production," White says. "If you think organic growing may be your future, ensure that no non-organic products are applied to your vineyard as the harvest approaches. After vintage, you can register with an organic certifier, and work towards full organic status in 2021."

The thirst for organic grapes in New Zealand is being driven by international demand. In overseas markets, "It’s becoming a foot in the door if you’ve got something in your portfolio that’s certified organic," Arnst says.

Demand for organic fruit has increased this season. "The volumes of fruit people are asking for is much greater than it was," Arnst says. Some organic grape growers now have waiting lists of wineries asking for their fruit.

Organic grape growers tend to focus on quality rather than quantity - opting to grow high-quality fruit rather than aiming for maximum yields. This approach has proven a successful business strategy for many. "Due to the demand, organic growers are in a strong position to negotiate and maximise their earnings per hectare," Arnst says.

Organic markets are continuing to grow worldwide, according to figures released last week by IFOAM, the International Federation of Agriculture Movements. The global organic market grew to nearly US$90 billion in 2016, according to the report, and certified organic land area continues to grow worldwide as well.

For more information:

- Organic Winegrowers New Zealand is an incorporated society representing organic grape and wine producers - www.organicwinenz.com

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