Highest growth for a decade in the European organic market
Hungary is ranked 10th in organic fruit production
Retail sales of organic products in Europe show the largest market expansion for a decade. Globally, the European Union already has the second largest single market for organic products after the United States, and the record growth was clearly due to a change in patterns of consumption during the pandemic. According to the latest international data, 6% of agricultural land is under organic cultivation in Hungary. The country also ranks 10 th in the world in terms of the absolute size of area producing organic fruit. The Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) – as the largest research institute of organic farming in Hungary – chiefly supports the development of local organic farming by sharing gap-filling research results, disseminating well-proven technologies, and building an expert advisory network.
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the Swiss Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL) have provided a comprehensive overview of the international situation of organic farming for the 23rd time this year. The statistical yearbook ‘The World of Organic Agriculture 2022’, which was published recently, shows that in 2020, 3.4 million farmers worldwide were engaged in organic production across 74.9 million hectares. Australia, Argentina, and Uruguay have the largest amount of land under organic cultivation. As a proportion of overall agricultural land, however, the largest areas under organic cultivation have been seen in Liechtenstein (41.6%), Austria (26.5%) and Estonia (22.4%) during the period under review.
Record growth in Europe
Europe had a record year in 2020, both in terms of area under organic cultivation and the size of the market. The market for organic products reached €52 billion, and the area under organic farming reached 17 million hectares. The market for organic products has grown by 15% year-on-year – the highest growth rate in a decade. This expansion is due in part to a significant increase in interest in healthy food by reason of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, in 2020, organic markets in many countries showed double-digit growth for the first time, for the simple reason that people were primarily working from home, and were cooking more often. Reducing the impact of our health, the environment and climate change through our eating habits has become a priority.
Looking just at EU member states, 14.9 million hectares, or 9.2% of agricultural land, were cultivated in accordance with organic standards in 2020. With almost 2.5 million hectares, France is now the country in the EU with the largest area of organically cultivated land, followed by Spain (2.4 million hectares), Italy (2.1 million hectares), and Germany (1.7 million hectares). In terms of European organic retail sales, the largest market is still Germany (at € 14.99 billion).
“The latest statistics confirm that production and processing need to keep pace with the dynamically expanding organic market. This development is also envisaged in the European Union's Farm to Fork strategy, and the new Common Agricultural Policy should be the tool to implement it" said Dr. Dóra Drexler, the director of ÖMKi, who is also the vice president of IFOAM Organics Europe.
“In addition to the CAP Strategic Plan, the National Action Plan for the Development of Organic Agriculture sets out the directions and targets for the comprehensive development of the organic sector by 2027”, she added.
Hungary leads the way in organic orchards, pulses and fish farming
With 301,403 hectares, or 6% of agricultural land, under organic cultivation in 2020, Hungary is still in the middle of the pack by European standards. In 2020, more than 5,000 farmers and 500 processors, and almost 50 companies importing from outside the EU, were working according to organic standards in the country. It is particularly noteworthy that 11.5% of Hungarian orchards, 7306 hectares, are cultivated organically, making Hungary the 10th largest temperate organic orchard region in the world.
Though less well known, fisheries is also a sector within organic farming. According to yearbook data, with a total output of 1743 tons, Hungary is ranked 9th in the world in freshwater organic fisheries. It is also noteworthy that 24.2% of the area producing pulses, i.e. almost 3,000 hectares, is under organic cultivation in Hungary. Pulses include fodder peas, dried peas, lentils, broad beans, angles, and Indian peas (though not soybeans, which are classed as an industrial crop according to the EUROSTAT system). These plants are important as animal feed and in the human food supply, as they are valuable sources of protein.
“Seeing the latest domestic data in international comparison, we are confident that the organic sector will continue to develop. However, in addition to support for farmers, strengthening advisory systems and knowledge transfer, market development and research and innovation are essential" added Dr Dóra Drexler, director of ÖMKi.