Spain, leader of the EU in organic farming area while UK presents a concerning decrease

Spain, leader of the EU in organic farming area while UK presents a concerning decrease

The latest report released by Eurostat about organic farming in the European Union brings mostly good news: 2015 was a year of growth in terms of organic area and organic producers. As per the agency's estimations, the trend will keep moving upwards during the next years. Spain is the country with the biggest share of organic farming area, accounting for the 18% of the whole UE in 2015. It's followed by Italy (13%) and France (12%). Although these percentages are impressive, it must be said that these countries are bigger than most of their neighbours, what means that they can make a larger contribution.

The organic pantry of Europe

Spain has around 2 million hectares devoted to organic farming, around 8% of the total farming land. However, the country is not first in this regards. Austria, Sweden and Estonia lead this proportional chart, with 20%, 17% and 16% respectively.

Let's head back to Spain to have a look at the main crops being grown there. Olive fields are the most extensive accounting for the 10% of the whole organic farming area with almost 200,000 hectares. Most of them are devoted to the production of olive oil and last year 200.000 tonnes where squeezed out from the trees. In sum, one ton per hectare.

Olive for oil is the main organic crop in Spain

Olive for oil is the main organic crop in Spain - Steve Buissinne

We spot a curiosity here. Despite being first in organically farmed area, Spain is second in number of producers with a 13% of the EU. Italy leads this rank with a fair 19%. For long time, Spanish news have acknowledged that Italian market imports virgin olive oil from Spain to sell it under their own label. These percentages could indicate that the same is happening with the organic olive oil. It wouldn't be that strange, since Italy has been experiencing a poor olive harvest these last years. Olive crops are followed by those used for organic wine production.

Spain not only has the vastest organic farming area, but such area is steadily growing as time moves on. During the last 5 years, its organic lands have expanded a 21%, more than 300,000 hectares.

United Kingdom, exception to the growing trend

Comparing the data of 2015 against those of 2010, the statistics show that 23 out of the 26 state members at that moment presented a positive growth in terms of organic farming area. There are only three exceptions: Netherlands (-4%), Norway (-17%) and the UK (-29%). This constitutes a paradox as the Soil Association has reported that the organic market rose 4.9% in 2015, being the third year of consecutive growth.

UK organic farming area has decreased 29% in the last five years

UK organic farming area has decreased 29% in the last five years - Agent Green Exposed

However, this market only accounts for the 1.4% of the entire food and drinks market. Maybe that's why the land devoted to organic farming in the UK is just 3% of the total utilised agricultural area: 500,000 hectares against the rough 650,000 in 2010. The number of producers has also decreased and UK holds hear another record: -31%.

But what has happened in the UK for it to show these negative figures? This article in The Guardian depicts it with a complete analysis. Bureaucracy, high costs for obtaining the certification, slow production, lack of demand, low profits, cut on subsidies and "dilution and diffusion of the organic principles". It's difficult to know, given that -as the author of this article points out- no one is researching on the causes for this negative trend.

Are there any answers out there? Is the word "organic" becoming a brand empty of meaning to the UK producers?

 

QUICK READING

Eurostat has published the statistics of organic farming in the EU for 2015. Spain is the country with more area devoted to organic farming area, with the main crop being the olive for oil. Whereas the EU shows a growing trend in most of the countries, there are three that show negative percentages compared to 2010. These are Netherlands, Norway and UK. In the case of UK, its land for organic crops has decreased on -29% in the period 2010-2015. But what are the reasons for the British growers to give up on the organic farming? We are looking for answers.

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