EU needs to stimulate demand for organic food, stakeholders say

By Maria Simon Arboleas | EURACTIV Est. 4min 20-02-2024 Content-Type: Underwritten Underwritten Produced with financial support from an organization or individual, yet not approved by the underwriter before or after publication. In 2022 the area under organic agriculture and the number of producers increased, but the bloc faced a decline in organic food retail sales in 2022, according to the new report of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture. [SHUTTERSTOCK/Arina P Habich] Euractiv is part of the Trust Project >>> Print Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn WhatsApp Telegram Public procurement in schools and making companies pay for the ‘hidden costs’ of conventional products are needed to balance the discrepancy between the increase in organically farmed land with the decrease in organic food sales, Eric Gall, deputy director of EU organic farming organisation IFOAM, told Euractiv. According to the annual report by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), presented at the Biofach – the biggest fair of the sector – in Germany, the amount of land farmed organically in the EU in 2022 increased by 5.1%, while the sale of organic food decreased by 2.8% in the same year. While the increase in the EU’s organic area is positive, demand could stand in the way of the EU’s plan to reach 25% of agricultural land under organic production by 2030. If the EU organic market wants to meet the targets set out in the European Commission’s flagship ‘Farm to Fork’ food policy strategy, the market “needs to grow at a faster rate”, the report notes. Reacting to the report, Gall said there is a gap between demand and production because “it takes a few years to adjust the production”. He also pointed out that, after years of “double-digit growth”, the organic market contracted in 2022 as a result of inflation pushing up the price of organic products. Gall added that there were “two missing pieces” in the European Commission’s strategy for organic farming. First, the long-delayed and finally pushed-back law on Sustainable Food Systems, which, according to him, should include a target for a share of organic products in public procurement. The second missing piece, he said, was the introduction of a “true cost accounting” system that would calculate not only the direct but also the hidden costs of the food industry – such as the impact on the environment in which a company operates – and make businesses pay for them. “If all these negative externalities were included in the price of products, conventional products would be more expensive than organic products,” he said, calling for policies to “ensure that the price of food reflects the impact of different production systems”. According to the data, the EU organic market experienced a decline of 2.8% in 2022. However, there was notable growth in countries such as Estonia (+6%) and the Netherlands (+4.4%). Positive trends “The EU’s organic area continued to grow steadily in 2022,” reads the report, “reaching 16.9 million hectares”. This accounts for 10.4 per cent of the total farmland in the EU and represents an increase of 5.1% compared to 2021 data. Meanwhile, the number of organic producers in the EU grew by 9.5% to more than 419,000 farmers, with most located in Italy. Need for further support The report warns that while the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plays a “pivotal role” in the process of achieving organic targets, it appears “somewhat inadequate” because its architecture results in “varying levels of ambitions” across member states. “Its effectiveness in this regard depends on its ability to offer robust support to organic farmers and acknowledge their additional efforts and investments,” reads the study. According to the authors, the CAP’s “eco-schemes” have provided an opportunity to incentivise environmentally friendly farming practices. However – they say – because their definition is delegated to EU countries, there are “significant differences” across the bloc. [Edited by Angelo Di Mambro/Alice Taylor] Read more with Euractiv Ukraine’s grain exports back to 2023 levels thanks to Black Sea routeGrain and oilseed exports from Ukraine have returned to the same levels as in March 2023, when the UN initiative was securing food trade through the Black Sea corridor, according to data from the International Grain Council (IGC). Print Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn WhatsApp Telegram Topics Agrifood CAP reform consumers organic organic farming

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