Farmers will be able to access interest free loans after the $30 million Woolworths Organic Fund was announced in the Lockyer Valley by the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner on Friday.
Mr Furner was speaking at the Organic Farm Gate farm owned by organic farmer Anthong Bauer, near Mt Sylvia.
The Woolworth Organic Fund is a partnership with the Toowoomba-based Heritage Bank and provides interest-free loans to organic enterprises for land acquisition, new produce varieties, new facilities and equipment.
“These loans or grants will also be available to farmers who convert their conventional farming to organic production,” Mr Furner said.
“There is a growing demand for organic food in Australian and internationally with consumers prepared to pay a premium for organic fruit and vegetables.”
Mr Furner said developing new markets was critical to the future expansion of the health and innovative food industry.
“Queensland is an ideal location to benefit from the Woolworths’ Organic Growth Fund with our state already growing over one-third of the nations produce,” he said.
Woolworths Supermarkets’ head of produce, Paul Turner, said more customers than ever were chosing to buy orgnic fruit and vegetables, with demand growing at 20 per cent each year.
“Working with the Queensland-based Heritage Bank, the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund represents our long-term commitment to satisfying the growing consumer demand, allowing us to continue our partnership with local farmers to make sure we are ready for future demand,” Mr Turner said.
“We encourage any Queensland fruit and vegetable grower looking to expand their organic business, or enter the organic category to consider applying to the Fund.”
Heritage Bank CEO, Peter Lock, said they were thrilled to partner with Woolworths in launching this extremely worthwhile initiative.
“The Fund will provide a significant boost to the organic farming sector and Heritage is pleased that we can use our expertise and resources to help farmers through the Organic Growth Fund.,” Mr Lock said.
The Heritage Bank has strong ties with agriculture and has a big presence in the Lockyer Valley.
Organic farmer, Anthony Bauer, converted to growing certified organic vegetables 26 years ago said he would never go back to conventional farming.
“The yields and the flavour are definitely there and so is the demand, and we want to get bigger,” Mr Bauer said.
The organics market in Australia is worth approximately $2.4 billion and has grown by 90 per cent since 2012.