Organic market show strong growth worldwide

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Organic farmland and retail sales both continued to show strong growth worldwide, according to a new report published by FiBL and IFOAM – Organics International. Almost 75 million hectares were farmed organically at the end of 2020, representing a growth of 4.1% or 3 million hectares compared to the previous year. These are the latest figures of the 23rd edition of “The World of Organic Agriculture”, presented on February 15th at this year’s digital edition of BIOFACH, the world’s leading trade fair for organic food. The report collects data on 190 countries with organic farming activities. Australia has the largest area farmed organically with 35.7 million hectares, but it is estimated that 97% of the farmland there is extensive grazing areas. Argentina is second when it comes to organic agricultural land (4.5 million hectares), followed by Uruguay (2.7 million hectares), India (2.6 million hectares) and France (2.5 million hectares). Due to the large area of organic farmland in Australia, half of the global organic area lies in Oceania (35.9 million hectares). Europe had the second largest area (17.1 million hectares), followed by Latin America (9.9 million hectares).

Currently, only 1.6% of the world’s agricultural land is farmed organically, but many countries have far higher shares. In 18 countries, 10% or more of all agricultural land was under organic management in 2020, up from 16 countries in 2019. The top five countries with the largest share of organic land were Liechtenstein (41.6%), Austria (26.5%), Estonia (22.4%), Sao Tome and Principe (20.7%) and Sweden (20.4%). However, 54% of the countries for which data is available had less than 1% of their agricultural land under organic management. According to the report, there were 3.4 million organic farmers worldwide and their number increased by 7.6% compared to the previous year. However, the authors point out that calculating precise figures is difficult here because some countries only report the number of companies, projects or growers groups which may each comprise many individual producers, hence the total number might even be higher. More than half of the world’s organic producers (53.7%) live in Asia, while Africa is home to 24.7% and Europe to 12.4% of organic producers. The country with the highest absolute numbers is India with 1.59 million farmers, followed by Ethiopia (219,566) and Tanzania (148,607 farmers).

Consumer demand for organic products across the globe showed its highest growth ever in 2020. Global retail sales of organic food and drink exceeded 120 billion euros in 2020 and experienced a total increase of 14 billion euros from the previous year. The publishers of the yearbook explain that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in demand for organic products in many countries, but there were also challenges: “The effects of the pandemic are visible in retail sales data. As people stayed home and began to cook more often and health, environment and climate change have become big issues, organic retail sales increased rapidly. However, at the same time, in the food service sales decreased in many countries”, says Helga Willer, who is in charge of the yearbook at FiBL. In 2020, the United States was the leading market (49.5 billion euros), followed by Germany (15bn euros) and France (12.7bn euros). Many markets showed extraordinarily strong growth rates. The Canadian market grew by 26.1%, while market growth in China and Germany was at 23% and 22.3% respectively. Looking at the shares the organic market has of the total market, the leader is Denmark with 13%, followed by Austria with an organic market share of 11.3% and Switzerland with 10.8%. Swiss consumers spent the most on organic food with 418 euros, followed by per capita consumer spending in Denmark (384 euros), Luxembourg (285 euros) and in Austria (254 euros).

The report not only includes facts and figures but also an evaluation of the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place in autumn 2021. Three authors from IFOAM International looked specifically at the role agroecology and organic agriculture played at the UNFSS, an event that from the outset earned heavy criticism from various movements that questioned its inclusivity. Unlike hundreds of other organisations that withdrew from the process due to the corporate capture of the summit, IFOAM decided “to engage in the process with a critical eye, consistently promoting agroecology and organic farming in all the different elements of the process,” the authors write. Their conclusion is that agroecology did not get sidelined in the UNFSS process because “the agroecology narrative could clearly be captured in various papers” produced by the so-called action tracks and “agroecology and organic agriculture were also named by numerous state representatives who expressed their commitment to agroecological transition.” However, “the most tangible result of the efforts to mainstream agroecology in the UNFSS was probably the creation of a ‘Coalition for the Transformation of Food Systems Through Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture’, with a mandate to ensure that agroecology and organic agriculture are seen as progressive and pioneering within the UNFSS and in any subsequent process.” The authors conclude that “there are growing opportunities for the organic movements worldwide to get engaged in transformational decision-making processes aiming to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the years to come.” (ab)

  • Press release: Global Organic Market: Unprecedented Growth in 2020
  • Report: The World of Organic Agriculture 2022

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