The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI: My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industries. Will the Minister inform the House of the latest developments in the State Government's investment in organic farming?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Organic farming is a growth industry in New South Wales and nationally. Latest available figures show that the New South Wales organic farm gate value is approximately $29 million and the national retail value is about $300 million and growing. I am happy to say that the Iemma Government is supporting this new industry. In fact, just last week I visited the Bathurst Agricultural Research and Advisory Station to launch the State Government's organic industries initiative package. The package is a further $250,000 investment in the New South Wales Centre for Organic Farming of the Department of Primary Industries [DPI]. A major component of the organic industries initiative is the creation of two new organic agriculture positions based at the Centre for Organic Farming. Those two new positions will take a proactive role in exploring market development opportunities to help the 350 certified organic farms in New South Wales see that market share grow.
The State's organic farmers, like conventional farmers, have many challenges to meet. They include finding solutions to supply chain issues for organic meat, continuing soil fertility improvement in organic systems and facilitating group marketing of organic produce. The two new positions will play a key role helping industry tackle these challenges. They will also work with the DPI network of extension and research staff across New South Wales to deliver the latest information, research and market development knowledge to the industry. This will ensure that our organic industries are in the best position possible to capitalise on market opportunities. Make no mistake: the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries is already a key player in organic research.
DPI staff are testing the suitability of different crop varieties, including strawberries, to organic farming systems. For example, DPI organic farming expert Karen O'Malley is about to begin a new varietal trial involving hazelnuts. This work will be undertaken at Bathurst. DPI is also working with the State's olive industry to investigate opportunities for an organic industry and potential for expansion into this area. Plus, the department is investigating the possibility of an organic vineyard trial at Bathurst, but this is in the very early stages.
The Hon. John Della Bosca: Can you sample the product?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Certainly, when it is produced I am sure all honourable members might get the opportunity to test the product and provide opinions. I am interested in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's view on organic wine. I think it will go over well. And all this work will complement organic research already underway at Yanco Agricultural Institute. At Yanco, staff are looking at optimising the quality and yield of spelt and other specialty grains under organic production. Researchers are investigating the performance and processing quality of 63 lines of spelt. To maintain this momentum and ensure that our organic industries make the most of all opportunities, I have created the New South Wales Organic Ministerial Advisory Council. The council will advise me on important matters facing the New South Wales organic industries and help harness the full potential of prospering organics.
The Organics Council will provide recommendations to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and myself on strategic development priorities and assisting their implementation, which are the two key priorities of the council. The New South Wales organic retail market is a significant contributor to the national organic retail market. The key products are meat, dairy, fruit, nuts, vegetables, herbs, seed grains and cereals. However, there are still a number of impediments to faster expansion of the New South Wales organic farming industry. There is also a real need for import substitution. Members of the council are fully aware of the challenges for our organic industry and will work together to develop strategies and recommendations to overcome these. The council consists of organic industry experts, marketers, researchers and organic producers. With this significant investment, the State Government looks forward to seeing our organic industries continue to prosper and maximise all opportunities that lay ahead.