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Organic farming statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from December 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article describes the situation of organic farming in the European Union (EU) in 2008, but also includes more recent developments. Wherever possible, a comparison to agriculture as a whole is made.

Not only has the total area under organic farming and the number of organic producers increased, but there is potential for further growth, as shown by the proportion of the area already fully converted to organic farming and the area still under conversion.

Figure 1: Total organic area (fully converted and under conversion) by country, 2007 (1) and 2008 (2) (ha)
Table 1: Total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), 2008 (ha) and % changes 2007-2008
Figure 2: Share of EU-27 total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), 2008 (%) (2)
Figure 3: Share of area under conversion in total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), 2008 (%)(1)
Figure 4: Share of arable land crops, permanent crops and pastures and meadows in fully converted area, 2008 (%) (1)
Table 2: Fully converted areas of total arable land crops and shares of main arable land crops, 2008 (2)
Figure 5: Share of total organic area (fully converted and under conversion) in Total Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA), 2005 (1) and 2007 (2) (%)
Figure 6: Share of different types of operators in total organic operators, 2008 (%) (1)
Figure 7: Share of organic producers by country in EU-27 total, 2008 (%) (2)
Table 3: Number of organic producers 2008, % changes 2007-2008
Figure 8: Organic producers in total agricultural holdings, 2005 (1) and 2007 (2) (%)
Figure 9: Average size of agricultural holdings, 2007 (ha holding) (3)
Figure 10: Organic livestock out of all livestock, 2008 (Number of heads) (1)
Table 4: Organic livestock 2008, % changes 2007-2008
Table 5: Number of organic processors by type of economic activity, NACE Rev. 2, 2008 (1)
Figure 11: Organic processors by type of economic activity as a % of all organic processors, 2008, EU-27 (1)
Figure 12: Organic processors by type of economic activity, 2008 (2)

Main statistical findings

Total organic area

Total organic area still increasing in the EU and Norway

The total organic area in EU-27 (i.e. the fully converted area and area under conversion) continues to show an upward trend. The increase in area between 2007 and 2008 was 7.4 %, as compared with 5.9 % between 2006 and 2007.

From 2007 to 2008, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia and the United Kingdom recorded growth of over 10 %. Although Italy led the European Union in the organic farming sector in recent years, the area under organic crops in Italy actually fell by 12.9 %.

During the same period, the organic area in Spain increased by 33.3 % (see Table 1).

The size of the organic area differs considerably from one Member State to another. In terms of the total organic area of each Member State as a share out of the total organic area in EU-27, 4 countries together accounted for around 50 % in 2008: the United Kingdom (9.4 %), Germany (11.7 %), Italy (12.9 %) and Spain (17.0 %) (see Figure 2).

Potential for growth

Considerable differences in growth potential of organic production between Member States

Organic production comes from fully converted areas. Before an area can be considered as 'organic', however, it must undergo a conversion process. The total organic area is the sum of the 'area under conversion' and the 'fully converted area'. The area under conversion as a percentage of the total organic area can give an indication of the potential growth in the organic sector in the years to come. Data on the area under conversion are available for 22 Member States and Norway. For these countries the difference in the potential for an increase in organic area is considerable (see Figure 3). In 2008, half of the countries had shares of between 10 % and 20 %. The Netherlands and Denmark had shares of less than 10 %, and there were 4 countries whose share exceeded 40 %: Poland (43.1 %), Spain (47.6 % ), Romania (48.9 %) and Bulgaria (74.6 %) (see Figure 3).

Crop types

Main crop types in the organic sector: arable crops, permanent crops and pastures/meadows

The three main crop types grown organically are arable land crops (mainly cereals, fresh vegetables, green fodder and industrial crops), permanent crops (mainly fruit trees and berries, olive groves and vineyards) and pastures and meadowland. In most of the Member States and Norway, permanent crops account for a relatively insignificant share of the fully converted area of these three main types (less than 5 %). In 2008, permanent crops accounted for between 10 % and 20 % in Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Poland and Portugal, while in Spain and Italy the share was over 20 %. Cyprus and Malta were in the lead with 41 % and 80 % respectively. Olive trees predominate in both countries. In 11 countries (including Norway) arable land crops accounted for the largest share of the land area (> 50 %), while in 15 countries pastures and meadows predominated (> 50 %). Arable crops were significant in Finland and Norway with shares of 98 % and 80 % respectively, while the Czech Republic (92 %), Ireland (96 %) and Slovenia (89 %) were in the lead in terms of pastures and meadows (see Figure 4).

Among the arable crops, cereals and green fodder occupied the biggest area. In most of the Member States and Norway, these two categories together accounted for more than 80 % of the fully converted area in 2008. Lithuania had the highest share of cereals among the Member States (79.0 %) and Latvia the highest share for green fodder (67.2 %). In Norway the share of green fodder was even higher, at 75.3 %. Bulgaria, with 67.8 %, accounted for a very large share of industrial crops. The shares of fresh vegetables in Ireland (26.7 %), the Netherlands (35.2 %) and Malta (50.0 %) are significant (see Table 2).

Percentage of utilised agricultural area (UAA)

Organic area 4.1 % of total EU-27 utilised agricultural area (UAA) in 2007

From 2005 to 2007, the total organic area (i.e. fully converted area plus area under conversion) as a percentage of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA) within the EU rose from 3.6 % to 4.1 %. Figure 5 shows the organic crop area as a percentage of the total utilised agricultural area by country for 2005 and 2007. Hungary and Greece recorded slight decreases between 2005 and 2007.

In Denmark and Sweden which had seen decreases during the period 2003 to 2005, the percentage share of organic area started to pick up again, increasing from 4.9 % to 5.1 % in Denmark and from 7.0 % to 9.9 % in Sweden. Austria, with 15.7 % of the total agricultural area, remained in the lead.

Main activities

Producers and processors are the most numerous organic operators

Activities within the organic sector include the food chain from production at farm level right through to industrial processing. Imports, exports and other activities, such as wholesale and retail trade, are also included.

The production of organic crops and the rearing of organic animals are the main activities in the organic sector at farm level, but the processing of goods is also important. Producers accounted for over 50 % of all operators in 2008 in all the Member States and Norway, and even exceeded 70 % in most countries. Importers accounted for less than 2 % of the total in most of the Member States (see Figure 6).

Number of organic producers

Rise by 9.5 % between 2007 and 2008

In 2008, there were a total of 196 200 organic producers in the EU-27. Germany, Greece, Spain and Austria each accounted for over 10 % of the EU-27 total, with Italy out in front on 22.6 %. In 12 countries the share was less than 1 % (see Figure 7).

Between 2007 and 2008 the number of organic producers in the EU-27 rose by 9.5 %. The highest rate of increase, 40.2 %, was in the Czech Republic. In 6 countries (Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Finland and the United Kingdom) falls were registered, ranging from -0.9% in Lithuania to as much as -13.4 % in Romania (see Table 3).

Percentage of agricultural holdings

1.3 % of all agricultural holdings certified organic in 2007

Although the share of organic producers in total agricultural holdings within the EU-27 showed only a very slight increase between 2005 and 2007 (from 1.2 % to 1.3 %), nearly all Member States posted an upward trend. This was similar to the situation in the areas under organic production. In 2007, Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia each accounted for a share of less than 1 %. Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Austria and Finland posted shares over 5 %, while Austria led with 12.1 %.

Only Sweden and Finland reported a fall in their shares, although Finland still managed to reach 5.9 %. In Norway, too, the share was slightly over 5 % (see Figure 8).

Size of organic holdings

Average size of agricultural holdings in general larger in organic sector

The average size of organic agricultural holdings in 2007 was 37 ha for the EU-27 as a whole, compared to 13 ha for all agricultural holdings. In general, the average size of holdings in the organic sector was larger in most of the Member States and smaller only in Denmark, France and Luxembourg. The most noticeable differences were seen in the Czech Republic (223 ha compared to 89 ha) and Slovakia (421 ha compared to 28 ha), (see Figure 9). One possible reason for these sometimes big differences is the use of a more extensive method of farming within the organic sector.

Organic livestock

Cattle and sheep are the most popular species

The 2008 figures for organic livestock as a share of all livestock showed that, with respect to cattle, pigs and sheep, some Member States using organic methods were producing remarkably large numbers of animals, cattle and sheep being the most popular. In Austria, 25.7 % of the sheep were reared using organic production methods, but organically reared cattle also achieved a noteworthy 17.7 % share, the highest in the whole EU-27. Estonia had the highest percentage of the sheep population with 47.3 %. As for organically reared pigs, they accounted for less than 1 % in most of the Member States (see Figure 10).

The developments in the individual Member States from 2007 to 2008 differed according to the species (see Table 4). Romania and Finland recorded large increases in the number of organically farmed sheep (103.0 % respectively 88.1 %), while Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom had the biggest increases of all Member States for cattle (31.7 %, 28.9 % and 27.6 %). The United Kingdom had also the biggest increase for pigs (41.2 %). In Greece, there was a considerable drop in the number of organically reared cattle, pigs and sheep, with the pig numbers decreasing by as much as 69.0 %. Latvia saw a negative trend in all three categories too.

Manufacture of organic products

Meat and meat products and fruit and vegetables dominate

On the basis of the NACE Rev.2 classification, food manufacturing activities can be grouped as follows:

  • processing and preserving of meat and production of meat products;
  • processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables;
  • manufacture of vegetable and animal fats and oils;
  • dairy products;
  • grain mill products and starches;
  • beverages;
  • prepared animal feeds;
  • other food products, including, for example, bakery products, tea, coffee, sugar, chocolate, etc. (see Table 5).

In 2008, apart from 'other food products', which include numerous products which are not always specified, most of the processors in EU-27 were engaged in the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables (20.1 %) and the processing and preserving of meat and the production of meat products (11.9 %) (see Figure 11). The United Kingdom led in the area of meat and meat products with 650 operators (26.6% of the EU-27 total), while Italy headed the list of all operators processing and preserving fruit and vegetables (with 1277 operators or 31.2 %). Italy was also heavily involved in the manufacture of vegetable and animal oils and fats, dairy products, grain mill products and beverages.

Comparing all Member States for which data are available and Norway, there are considerable variations in the situation from one country to another in terms of which is the most important activity at national level. For example, while the processing and preserving of meat and the production of meat products in 2008 were the most common activities in the Czech Republic and France with 22 % each, in Romania the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables was top of the list with 44 % (see Figure 12).

Data sources and availability

The statistical information presented in this publication is drawn from the Eurostat database, available at the Eurostat website.

1. Organic farming statistics

Annual data collection. Data are provided by the Member States and Norway on the basis of a harmonised questionnaire. Up to reference year 2007, data provision was voluntary. From reference year 2008 onwards, data have to be delivered following Regulation 834/2007, implementing Regulation 889/2008.

The most recent figures on organic operators are provisional and subject to later revision.

2. Statistics on the structure of agricultural holdings (FSS)

The Farm structure survey (FSS) is conducted every 10 years (full-scope Agricultural Census) and intermediate surveys (sample-based) in between (data are available for the following years: 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2007).

3. Livestock statistics

Annual data collection.

TERMINOLOGY

Organic area: data on organic area in this publication represent the sum of fully converted areas and areas under conversion, unless otherwise indicated.

Organic operator: any natural or legal person who produces, prepares, imports, exports or deals with organic products.

Organic producer: any natural or legal person who operates an agricultural holding involved in producing, packaging and labelling his own organic products.

Organic processor: any natural or legal person who preserves and/or processes organic agricultural produce (including slaughter and butchering of livestock). Packaging and labelling of organic products is also considered to be processing.

Mixed organic operator: operator involved in more than one of the activities, e.g. a producer who is also processing (not only his own products).

Context

The increase of 7.4 % in the total area under organic farming between 2007 and 2008 illustrates the continuing positive trend in the organic sector in the EU. In 2007, the area under organic farming accounted for 4.1 % of the total utilised agricultural area.

Between 2007 and 2008, the number of producers (agricultural holdings) using organic farming methods within EU rose by 9.5 %. Cattle and sheep are the most popular species reared using such methods.

The main industrial activities in the organic sector are the processing and preserving of meat and the production of meat products as well as the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Area under organic farming (tsdpc440)
Organic crop area (fully converted area) (tag00098)

Database

Certified organic crop area by crops products (food_in_porg1)
Certified organic crop production and yields from fully converted areas by crops products (food_in_porg2)
Certified organic livestock by type of species (food_in_porg3)
Number of certified registered organic operators by type of operators (food_act2)
Number of certified registered organic operators processing products issued from organic farming - NACE Rev. 2 (from 2008) (food_act3)
Certified production of organic animal products by type of products (food_pd_dmorg)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Regulation 834/2007  of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation 2092/91
  • Regulation 889/2008 of 5 September 2008 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control
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