18.02.2021 |

Global organic area continues to increase, report

Organic retail sales increased (Photo: CC0)

Organic farming is on the rise across the globe. A total of 72.3 million hectares were farmed organically at the end of 2019, representing a growth of 1.1 million hectares or almost 1.6% compared to the previous year. These are the latest figures of “The World of Organic Agriculture” published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International. The report collects data on 187 countries with organic farming activities and was presented on February 17th at this year’s digital edition of BIOFACH, the world’s leading trade fair for organic food. Australia has the largest area farmed organically with 35.7 million hectares, followed by Argentina (3.7 million hectares) and Spain (2.4 million hectares). Due to the large area of organic farmland in Australia, half of the global organic area is in Oceania (35.9 million hectares), followed by Europe with 23% or 16.5 million hectares and Latin America with 11% (8.3 million hectares).

Currently, only 1.5% of the world’s agricultural land is farmed organically, but many countries have far higher shares. In sixteen countries, 10% or more of all agricultural land was under organic management in 2019. The top five countries with the largest share of organic land were Liechtenstein (41%), Austria (26.1%), São Tomé and Príncipe (24.9%), Estonia (22.3%) and Sweden (20.4%). According to the report, there were 3.1 million organic farmers worldwide and their number increased by 13% 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. Around 51% of the world’s organic producers live in Asia, while Africa is home to 27% and Europe to 14% of organic producers. The country with the highest absolute numbers is India with 1.36 million farmers, followed by Uganda (210,353) and Ethiopia (203,602).

Consumer demand for organic products is also increasing across the globe. Global retail sales of organic food and drink reached 106 billion euros in 2019. The United States is the leading market (44.7 billion euros), followed by Germany (11.9bn euros) and France (11.3bn euros). High growth rate were achieved in many countries. In Estonia and France, markets increased by more than 13%. Looking at the shares the organic market has of the total market, the leader is Denmark with 12.1% while the organic market share was 10.4% in Switzerland and 9.3% in Austria. Danish and Swiss consumers spent the most on organic food with 344 and 338 euros per person respectively. “The yearbook is an outstanding reflection of the level of trust people around the world have in organic agriculture and its importance for nutrition, the environment and sustainable development,” said Knut Schmidtke, Director of Research, Extension & Innovation at FiBL Switzerland. The authors assume that the organic sector will benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence shows that retail sales have risen by up to 30% in some countries in 2020. “The pandemic has had a profound impact on our daily lives, as well as on the organic food industry," according to the report. “In COVID times, it almost looked as if food was regarded as a medicine. Organic agriculture has a lot to offer for systematic, positive health by reducing pesticide levels, contributing to a healthy environment and focussing on seasonality and proximity," writes Louise Luttikholt, Executive Director of IFOAM – Organics International, in the outlook section. The figures for 2020 will be published in the 2022 edition of “The World of Organic Agriculture”. (ab)

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