The world's largest sweet ginger processor - Australian-based Buderim Ginger Limited - has been given the green light by the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) to process organic ginger at its Sunshine Coast headquarters, following official certification in October, by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) accredited group.

In what is described as a strategic move, Buderim's General Manager for Marketing and Sales, Mr Paul Ritchie, said the company believes organically grown and processed ginger is one of the most exciting product diversifications for the company's industrial export markets.

Supporting Mr Ritchie's views was Dr Andrew Monk, Executive Auditor of the BFA, which has been associated with two-thirds of Australia's organic industry growth.

Dr Monk said Australia's organic food segment has been the fastest growing food category for the past three years averaging between 20% and 40% growth per annum.

Mr Ritchie said there are obvious benefits for Buderim to diversify its product base by expanding into this burgeoning food segment largely created by consumer concerns over GM foods.

The UK is the largest consumer of processed ginger in the western world and Buderim's largest industrial export market, followed by Germany and Europe.

Buderim first tested the organic 'waters' in the UK earlier this year, where demand for GM-free foods is reaching exponential growth levels. Adding substance to growth claims, was the recent announcement by the UK's leading food retailer, Tesco.

Tesco predicted sales of organic food products will quadruple by 2005 to the tune of £1 billion.

Buderim's processed ginger lines are used by a range of international food manufacturers within the bakery, confectionery, jams and ready-made sectors - many of which are monitoring organic growth patterns - which has prompted the company to obtain approval from the UK's Soil Association to export organically grown and processed ginger into the UK, based on Buderim Ginger gaining BFA Certification.

Despite the present limited supplies of organically grown ginger, Buderim is confident that growers both in Australia and Pacific regions will invest in organic.

According to Ritchie, it is important for the company to remain at the forefront of world-trends, particularly in the organics industry.

"The UK and Europe consumer markets are spearheading the shift towards organic produce, and I expect the North American markets, particularly the USA, to follow this trend which is on the increase, according to various market reports."

To achieve organic certification in Australia, the farms committed to growing produce must satisfy a range of criteria to ensure complete isolation of organic produce from the field to processor.

Similarly, Buderim Ginger's processing facilities and suppliers must demonstrate strict procedures to satisfy the BFA benchmark criteria that organic produce is isolated from other manufactured products from field, right though to processing, packaging and shipment.

"Farmers must also show a clear commitment and ability to manage their farming and production systems in accordance with organic criteria for a minimum of three years," said the BFA's Dr Monk.

"Australia's national Organic Standards is regarded as one of the most stringent in the world, and it is the role of the country's seven AQIS-accredited certifiers, including the Biological Farmers of Australia Cooperative Limited, to oversee the integrity and growth of our national organic industry and ensure our reputation in world export markets is not compromised," Dr Monk concluded.

Queensland is leading the country's organic growth industry with the state holding more certified land than any other Australian State or Territory.