Organic farming in the EU: a portrait

5 months ago 358

We all know organic food is increasingly popular. And European Union countries are not an exception. On the contrary, in fact: the EU is the second largest consumer of organic food all over the world, with €34.5 billion in sales in 2017.

These and other numbers, revealed by a new report by the European Commission, paint a complete portrait of organic farming in the region.

Eggs are the best selling organic product

In the EU, eggs have the largest retail market share of all organic food products. In certain countries, this product has a very high penetration: 33% in Denmark and 30% in France. And the numbers keep growing.

Fruits and vegetables are also a “success story” in organic farming, the report claims.

The organic food products that least attract consumers are meat (though sales are growing) and beverages (except for wine).

Read also: EU organic farming area up 25% since 2012

Organic farming is less efficient than conventional farming

Organic farms have almost twice as much the size of conventional farms (30 average hectares vs 17).

On the other hand, organic farming produces fewer yields than conventional farming. The contrast is bigger for crops like wheat and maize. However, the report adds, the lower yields seem to be offset by higher prices. And it offers the example of Germany, where organic wheat farmers were able to sell their yields for prices 150% higher than non-organic wheat.

The authors defend that research and innovation can help improve organic farming yields since they’re highly impacted by factors like location, farming practices, or crops.

Organic farming grew 70% in 10 years

70%: that’s how much organic farming in the EU has grown over the last decade. In 2017, the organic farming area in the region reached 12.6 million hectares, which represents 18% of the global farming area and 7% of all farmland in the EU.

However, as expected, there’s a gap between the several Member-States. Over half of the organic farming area in the EU is concentrated in 4 countries: Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

Read also: What’s next for European agriculture? More conscious consumers, less meat consumption

2% of farmers give up on organic farming every year

Although organic farming in the EU has grown, at least 2% of organic farmers have given up on the business every year over the last 5 years. Some of them retire, but others go back to conventional farming.

The main reasons that lead farmers to do this are the high costs associated with organic farming and production restrictions. Other reasons are the lack of local demand, bureaucracy, and high certification costs.

Pastures on top, wine on the rise

In 2016, most of the EU’s organic farming area – 44%, that is, 5.6 million hectares – consisted of pasture, which is mostly meant for organic production of cattle.

Right after pastures, the most relevant crops are green forage (17% of the organic farming area), cereals (16%), and permanent crops (11%).

Within permanent crops, fruits and wine are the most important. The latter is even presented as a success story in organic agriculture since demand for it has increased significantly and its profit margins are high.

Laws: what will change in 2021?

In two years, a new EU law on organic farming will come into force.

The goal is to harmonize the rules for all of the agents, especially in regard to imports. Imported organic food products will have to obey the same rules applied in the EU.

The new law should also reduce the cost of certification for farmers and bureaucracy.

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Photos: Manorun Organic Farm, Pexels, Unsplash

Journalist and community manager.

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