Future of organics debated

Related tags Organic farming Agriculture

Organic farming was recognised as a viable means of achieving
sustainable development at the European Hearing on Organic Food and
Farming yesterday. Franz Fischler, member of the European
Commission responsible for agriculture, rural development and
fisheries, outlined the possibilities and problems ahead.

"Last year in June an agreement was reached on a reform of the Common Agriculture Policy,"​ he said. "With its emphasis on the long-term economic and social viability for the agricultural sector, with the provision of safe, high quality agricultural products by methods offering a high degree of respect towards the environment, we expect the 2003 CAP reform to provide a highly positive framework for the future development of organic farming in Europe."

Fischler said that the new principle of de-coupled support should make it easier for farmers to extensify animal production and grow crops more suitable for organic farming. "The familiarity of the organic sector in producing to defined, strict production methods and backing them up with an on-farm control system create a relative advantage for organic farmers when respecting of cross compliance is concerned,"​ he said.

Member States also have the choice to dedicate up to 10 per cent of their national envelopes to supporting quality production such as environmentally friendly farming.

Fischler also outlined problems affecting the sector. While organic agriculture appears to be growing, farmers continue to report difficulties in marketing their products. "This illustrates that supply and demand are not always in balance,"​ he said.

"We need to consider how we reach the consumers and make them aware of the many different benefits of organic products and the organic production system. Do we need to launch new information campaigns to raise consumer awareness and recognition of the products on the supermarket shelves? Do we need to do something to improve the consumer confidence in organic farming? Maybe we need to extend the standards to respond even better to environment requirements, animal welfare and food quality?"

Both supply and demand have expanded during the last several years. Despite this growth, the average market share for organic products is small, about 2 per cent in the EU, with some notable exceptions such as the share of organic vegetables at 5 to 10 per cent. In some regions, the market and the production are still growing but in other regions the development has slowed down.

Related topics Processing & packaging

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