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Bio-Austria fears end of organic boom in Austria

by Michael Stahl (comments: 0)

Organic shop in Austria
Organic food in Austria: Fewer and fewer farmers are converting to organic farming. © Bio Austria / Sonja Fuchs

Consumers in Austria bought more organic food in 2020 than ever before. Compared to the previous year, sales of organically produced food across all distribution channels rose by 316 million euros or 15 percent to 2.37 billion euros. This was announced by Agrarmarkt Austria Marketing (AMA Marketing) and the Bio Austria association at a press conference last week.

"The figures are clear evidence of the continuing rise in the importance of organic in society, which is increasingly reflected in purchasing behaviour," said Gertraud Grabmann, Federal Chairwoman of Bio Austria. According to AMA Marketing surveys, almost all Austrian residents buy organic food. In recent years, they have been buying more and more organic products. As reasons for the increase, the organic association cites environmental aspects such as the climate crisis and the decline in biodiversity, which are becoming increasingly important to society.

Record turnover and sales are also expected in Austria for 2021 as a whole. In the traditional food retail sector alone, where more than 80 percent of organic food is sold, consumers bought organically produced products worth 420 million euros in the first six months of the year - almost 17 percent more than in the first half of 2020. According to the AMA, buyer reach was 96 percent. In an average of 24 shop visits, they bought 31 kilograms of organic food. In terms of value, the organic share in the shopping trolley accounted for 11.3 percent during this period.

Bio Austria: "Threat of loss of value added for domestic agriculture".

However, the organic boom in Austria may soon have passed its zenith. While demand for organic food is growing, there is a risk of shortages on the supply side. From 2019 to 2020, just 235 farms in Austria converted to organic. "The effect of the organic measure, i.e. the support of organic farms within the framework of the Agri-environmental Programme (ÖPUL), is very clear here," said Grabmann.

According to Bio Austria, producers who want to enter organic farming for the first time have to do without support from the organic measure since 2019. This seems to deter many farms. From 2015 to 2018, farmers could still newly enter the measure. At that time, the association recorded an increase in organic farms of 13 per cent, which corresponded to 2718 farms. From 2018 to 2019, it was then only possible to switch from another measure to the higher-quality organic measure. At that time, about 800 farms still converted to organic, which meant an increase of 3.3 per cent.

Grabmann described this development as a widening gap between supply and demand. "From our point of view, we have to take countermeasures here, otherwise there is a risk of a loss of added value for domestic agriculture," said the Bio-Austria Federal Chairwoman. "Ultimately, this is about the chance for numerous farmers to jump on the successful organic bandwagon - this chance should not be missed."

Altogether, there are currently 24,480 farms in Austria that work organically. That is 22.7 percent of all agricultural holdings. They manage 679,872 hectares or 26.5 percent of the total agricultural area.


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