Organic consumers objects Wal-Marts plans
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Organic foods achieved a turnover of 15 billion Dollars in the United States. The market is booming with growth rates of 20 %, said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, OCA.
The group, which pushes for tougher standards, accuses Wal-Mart and large food-processing companies of trying to water down federal guidelines for organic, reports Northwest Arkansas News Source.
The fear is, that Wal-Marts big demand could lead to more imports from China and elsewhere. Cummins said, that this could drive out many of the small farmers who developed the market. "On the one hand, we’re happy to see the big corporate players get into organics. But they’re not playing by the rules," he said. "When you look across the country, the only small and medium-sized farmers who are making a decent living are the organics, and they’re not going to survive."
Wal-Mart doesn’t break out the percentage of sales organics represent but the Bentonville based retailer said it is expanding its offerings based on demand from customers. It’s adding coffee, peanut butter, baby formula and ice cream, among other options. "We want to allow anyone looking for an organic alternative to be able to find it at a value," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk said in an e-mail.
Gayle Anderson, produce manager at the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, N. Y., said she thinks the big supermarkets are just trying to make a quick buck off the growing market.
She questioned whether they were keeping up with complex USDA rules for keeping organic and standard produce separate. And she said they weren’t as concerned with local farmers.
Anderson said Honest Weight’s produce comes from around the world, but she buys as much from local farmers as she can when crops are in season.
Even with competition from the mainstream giants, Honest Weight is looking to open a second store, and other groups are considering forming their own food co-ops in the Albany area.
Smith and Cashen, the organic farmers in upstate New York, haven’t sold to Wal-Mart. But they have sold to Whole Foods Markets, a national organic and naturalfood seller. But even that retailer demands prices that Smith and Cashen said they can’t always meet. So instead, they’ve focused on selling locally, to loyal customers such as Honest Weight, and at farmers markets, where many consumers appreciate knowing where their food comes from. "There’s still that niche we have, which we can serve," Smith said.