Over the last three decades, organic food and farming has continued to grow year-onyear across Europe. Since the mid-1980s, in the European Union (EU) alone the total area of farmland under organic production has increased steadily to 10.3 million hectares (as of 2014). This has been accompanied by buoyant market growth over the last ten years, with the total value of the EU organic retail market doubling from €11.1 billion in 2005 to €24 billion in 2014. More recently, the organic movement has been working towards an organic vision for fairer, more environmentally conscious and healthier food and farming systems by 2030. This vision envisages 50% of Europe’s agricultural land being managed according to the organic principles of health, ecology, fairness and care.
Yet, despite Associated with document Ref. Ares(2017)6120770 - 13/12/2017 Organic Juices – SEP 779666 10 unprecedented growth, a significant imbalance continues to exist between the current supply of organic produce and the growing demand for organic food. Based on current market growth, the increase in organic production over the last number of decades, and the vision that the EU organic movement has set itself, the organic sector still has huge potential to be a flagship for smart, sustainable and inclusive development. However, if the sector does not succeed in closing the gap between organic demand and supply, Europe may miss the chance to capitalise on the organic sector’s sustainable growth and investment potential. The growth of the organic market varies between EU Member States. Indeed, while retail sales in 2014 increased by double digits in Sweden (45%) and France (10%), in countries such as Belgium (3.8%) and the UK (4%) organic retail growth rates were below average. Similarly, there are huge differences in per capita consumption of organic food between Member States, with Luxembourg and Denmark leading and Slovakia and Bulgaria at the lower end. Despite these differences, EU consumers have been increasing their average spend on organic food considerably and the organic food market is an important growth area in the EU grocery retail market. In contrast to the development of organic farms across the EU, the number of organic processers increased considerably in 2014, with around 8,000 more organic processors than in 2013.
Therefore while organic food is a huge business opportunity for farmers, importers, retailers and processors the dynamic growth of the organic market has resulted in more and more importers and retailers stepping into organic businesses or expanding engagement with organic food. However, organic production is not moving at the same speed. As organic production in the EU lags behind the growth of the organic market, there is a severe risk that the growing demand will be met by imports and that EU farmers may not benefit. The organic sector can do more in its own right to support organic food and farming development in the EU. Many relevant aspects have already been identified by the EU organic movement in its Organic Vision for Europe. These include: Recalling the transformative nature of organic food and farming as a key to the further success of organic agriculture.
This requires taking stock of what organic has become and how it can proactively face up to the new political, environmental and socioeconomic challenges facing the agro-food sector.