A D Mackay

AgResearch, Private Bag 11008 Palmerston North

Exports of organic produce from New Zealand exceeded $60 million in 1998/99. From a base of less than $1 million in 1991, total exports of organic produce are predicted to be greater than $100 million by the end of 2001. Consumers' concerns about food safety and the impact of production systems on the environment are major factors behind this growing market for natural and organic food. Concerns about food safety include not only concerns about levels of chemical residues and contaminants in food, but also questions about the nutritional and health value of food and what constitutes a balanced, healthy diet. The current debate on genetic engineering has given added momentum to these concerns of the public. Consumers of natural and organic produce will also demand the highest standards of hygiene in the processing and handling of food, an aspect of food safety that will continue to be a major issue for the wider food industry.

The management of our production systems, and their impact on the environment are the other major factors driving the growing markets for natural and organic food. Consumer concern about the sustainability of current land use practices, the impact of production agriculture on the wider environment, the level of chemical use in the control of both plant and animal pests, and animal welfare and health, all influence the purchasing behaviour of consumers of natural and organic produce. These concerns are not restricted solely to this consumer group, but are increasingly being raised by all consumers in the first world. This paper explores the features of a livestock production system producing natural or organic food and the challenges facing the industry.

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