Organic food sector now worth AU $100 billion following double digit growth

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly e-newsletter to receive more stories like this. Vegetable farmer watering plants at the organic farm in Boung Phao Village, Lao PDR: more than 80 percent of the world's organic producers are in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Global data on organic farming from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International released in February 2017 shows that the positive trend of past years is continuing.

The 2017 edition of FiBL and IFOAM’s statistical yearbook The World of Organic Agriculture, based on data from the end of 2015, shows that the organic market worldwide has grown to more than US$80 billion, with strong growth expected to continue in coming years.

Consumer demand for organic products is increasing, as evidenced by double-digit growth in most major markets, including the largest organic market on the planet, the United States.

More primary producers worldwide are farming organically; more land is now ‘certified organic’, and five more countries than last year (179 in total, up from 172 in 2016’s yearbook) report regularly on organic farming activities.

The major global survey was backed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and NürnbergMesse, organisers of BIOFACH, billed as the ‘world´s leading trade fair for organic food’.

Amish farmers, organic producers from way back, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

KEY FINDINGS

The global organic market is growing

Market research company Organic Monitor (now Ecovia Intelligence), estimates that the global market for organic food reached US$81.6 billion (AU$103.4b) in 2015, with most major organic markets demonstrating double-digit annual growth.

The US led the pack at AU$53.4 billion; Germany ranked second at AU$12.8 billion. France came in third at AU$8.2 billion, with China hot on its heels at AUD$7 billion (but likely to grow faster than any other market). Australia, with an estimated organic market share of around 1%, is a comparatively small player.

Denmark has the world’s highest organic market share

The Swiss spent the most per capita on organic products in 2015 – AU$390 per person; while organic-produce leader Denmark, with an impressive 8.4 percent of its total food market now organic, claimed the title of highest organic market share.

Organic brunch at a Copenhagen eatery: in 2016, according to The World of Organic Agriculture 2017 report, 8.4% of all food sold in the small but pioneering Scandinavian nation was organic.

European nations report the highest percentage of organic farmland

In 11 of the 179 countries surveyed, 10 percent or more of all agricultural land is organic. Those with the largest proportion of organic agricultural land to total farmland in 2015 were all in Europe: Liechtenstein (30.2%), Austria (21.3%) and Sweden (16.9%).

Indeed, all but two of the countries claiming double-digit percentages of organic farmland were European; the others were the US and Canada.

Organic producer numbers are concentrated in third-world countries

In 2015, reports the FiBL-IFOAM study, there were 2.4 million organic producers worldwide – most of them in India, which continues to rank first in the world with a staggering 585,200 individual organic producers. Ethiopia, with 203,602, and Mexico, with 200,039, were ranked second and third, respectively.

Around 84 percent of the world’s organic producers are farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with just one ‘western’ nation – Italy – making it into the top 10.

Aerial view of Turner Organic Farm in Uttaranchal, India: by the end of 2015, the Subcontinent had more than half a million organic producers.
Turner Organic Farm in Uttaranchal, India: by the end of 2015, the Subcontinent had more than half a million organic producers.
Paul Hamilton, Flickr CC

Australia claims nearly half the world’s organic acreage.

By the end of 2015, reports the FiBL-IFOAM study, a total of 50.9 million hectares were managed according to organic principles – that’s 6.5 million more hectares farmed organically than were reported in 2014. This is the largest annual growth in organic farm and rangeland ever recorded.

Australia continued to claim the largest organic acreage at 22.7 million hectares, up significantly from 17.5m hectares a year earlier. Most of Australia’s organic agricultural acreage is extensive grazing land used to raise ‘free-range’ grass-fed beef cattle.

Argentina, with 3.1m hectares of organic agricultural land, came a distant second, with the US and Spain, each with 2 million hectares of land devoted to organic production, tying for third place.

In Continental terms, 45 percent of the world’s organic agricultural land, or 22.8m hectares, lies in Oceania, 25 percent of it is in Europe, with a total of 12.7m hectares; and 13 percent, or 6.7m hectares, is in Latin America.

A 2.4-million-acre cattle ranch in the Northern Territory: most of Australia's vast organic acreage is grazing land for free-range beef cattle.
A 2.4-million-acre cattle ranch in the Northern Territory: most of Australia's vast organic acreage is grazing land for free-range beef cattle.
Harris Walker, Flickr CC

Get more of The World of Agriculture 2017

Click here to access further information and downloads from the full report: Helga Willer and Julia Lemond (Eds.) (2017): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2017. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick, Switzerland and IFOAM - Organics International, Bonn, Germany. 

The data from the report is available online, or buy the full report from FiBL (order number 3503) or IFOAM

Further information

For more information about The World of Organic Agriculture, contact Markus Arbenz, IFOAM – Organics International in Bonn, Germany, on +49 (0)160 8041557 or via email at m.arbenz@ifoam.bio; or Dr Helga Willer at FiBL in Frick, Switzerland, on +41 (0)79 2180626, or via email at helga.willer@fibl.org.

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