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Organic farming and weight loss the money spinners in 2010

By Scott Hannaford, The Canberra Times | Stock & Land

Australians are more likely to make money out of organic farming and weight-loss services in 2010 than by building townhouses and apartments, according to research on the latest industry trends.

Despite the prolonged effects of the drought, economic forecasters IBISWorld is predicting a bumper year for a number of agriculture-based businesses with sugar manufacturing and organic farming topping the list of growth industries for the year.

Revenue from sugar production is predicted to expand by 15.9 per cent to become a $3.11billion industry, while the much smaller organic farming industry is expected to grow by 14.8pc.

Not surprisingly, industries helped along by Federal Government spending such as the insulation industry and construction associated with schools are also predicted to have a good 2010.

IBISWorld general manager Robert Bryant said overall growth of 2.2pc was predicted for the Australian economy, a marked improvement on the doom and gloom of the previous 12 months.

Mr Bryant said increasing concern about the environment and personal health had thrown up several surprises from the survey results.

"While on average organic goods remain more expensive than non-organic produce, higher disposable incomes coupled with increasing awareness of environmental sustainability and an increase in the range of organic produce available will see continued growth in this industry," Mr Bryant said.

Wallaroo-based organic farmer Dave Pentony said he was not surprised by the results and has plans to expand his business and take on extra staff this year.

"We could grow a lot more, and we can sell everything we produce. The only thing holding us back is water," Mr Pentony said.

The property near Hall, ACT, now has 45 greenhouses for winter crops.

The lingering effects of the credit crunch and a reduction in the first home-owners grant meant the multi-apartment and townhouse construction sector was expected to suffer this year, with the industry expected to shrink by 5.2pc and employment to fall by 3.9pc.

Master Builders' Association's acting chief executive Richard Calver said the Government's stimulus measures had protected 50,000 construction jobs that would have been otherwise lost during the downturn.

"It's going to take some time for a turnaround and for a full recovery ... Even though builders are becoming more optimistic about where things are headed, the challenge is to overcome sluggish investor activity and the prospect of higher interest rates," Mr Calver said.

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