Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Organic market dimensions in Europe

Results of two surveys of national organic markets in Europe (all EU member states, two accession countries, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, and two EFTA countries, Norway and Switzerland) in the years 2000 and 2001 provide information on organic agricultural production, consumption, supply deficits, imports, exports and farmer and consumer prices. Products covered included cereals, oilseeds, olives, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, wine, milk, beef, sheep and goat meat, pork, poultry and eggs.

The aim of this study was to analyse all important aspects of the organic market, in order to provide both market actors and agricultural policymakers with reliable advice about its development in Europe, and about general factors that promote or hamper market growth. By adopting a coherent approach and cross-checking, the estimates reported can be used to assess, in broad order of magnitude terms, the significance of the organic market in the countries studied.

The share of organic products in total agricultural production in the EU remains low, ranging from 0.3% for organic pork and poultry, up to 4.9% for organic olives. Information about organic consumption as a percentage of the total consumption of different food products (market share by volume) ranged from 0.3% for organic pork and poultry, to 1.8% for organic cereals.

The organic share of total food sales on average in the EU was 1.0%; however, differences between countries surveyed range from 0.1% in the Czech Republic to 3.5% in Denmark and 3.7% in Switzerland.

Foreign trade was also investigated, though few experts were able to confidently estimate the amount of organic products involved. For plant products, in 2001 the EU was a net importer of organic cereals, potatoes, vegetables and fruit, but a net exporter of organic olives and organic wine. The importance of organic animal products in international trade was rather less. The EU was a net importer of organic beef and poultry, but a net exporter of organic milk (especially of cheese), pork and eggs. Product groups for which supply deficits were expected in many countries for the years 2003 and 2004 are organic fruit and vegetables, pork, and organic animal feed.

Considerable price differences, even between neighbouring countries, show that market transparency for organic food was particularly poor. The EU average for consumer price premiums in 2001 varied from 28% for organic baby food in glass jars, up to 163% for organic cucumbers. Price premiums also varied between different countries, and distribution through different sales channels played an important role in this regard: in countries where general food shops were very active in the marketing of organic food, consumer price premiums were usually lower than in those countries where organic food shops or direct sales provided the main sales channels. The importance of general food shops as a sales channel for organic products is underlined by the fact that consumer price premiums were lower in countries with a high involvement of general food retailers.

One contributing factor is lower distribution costs; it is cheaper to transport larger volumes of organic products, together with conventional products, to bigger distribution centres and on to major retailers, than it is to transport small volumes to many small specialist organic food shops.

With such market data, producers, processors or traders can identify where there are deficits and oversupply in the market and, hence, which products are worth producing and selling. It is relatively difficult for agricultural producers to respond quickly to evolving customer demand, due to lengthy production cycles and climatic factors. For conventional farmers deciding to switch to organic methods, the two-year conversion period further delays the appearance of the product on the market. Reliable market data, collected systematically over several years, helps to predict the development of consumer demand. Agricultural policymakers also need reliable advice about organic sector development in Europe, and about general factors that promote or hamper market growth.

An urgent need exists for more regular, consistent data collection at a European level, and progress on this issues is being achieved through a subsequent FP5 project (QLK5-CT-2002-02400 EISFOM) to support improved data quality, standardization and detail on specific commodities.

Reported by

Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences
Steinstrasse 19
37213 Witzenhausen
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