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Organic sales in Germany up 22 per cent

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A woman shops organic groceries in a supermarket
The German organic market grew to a total of 14.99 billion euros. © Shutterstock / Dmitry Kalinovsky

The German market and demand for organic products developed positively in 2020. Direct and online marketing in particular boomed in the Corona year, as BÖLW announced at the industry's annual press conference at Biofach in Nuremberg. This momentum must be used, according to the appeal to politicians.

The natural food trade in Germany increased sales of food and beverages to a total of 3.70 billion euros, the Federation of the Organic Food Industry (BÖLW) announced last week at the start of Biofach 2021. Including non-food, it was 4.37 billion euros, according to figures from the Federal Association Natural Food Natural Goods (BNN). With an overall increase in sales of 16.4 per cent (2019: 8.4 per cent), the specialist natural food trade accounted for 25 per cent of the total organic market.

The total organic market grew to a total of 14.99 billion euros, according to calculations by the Agricultural Market Information Company Ltd. (AMI). Germans thus invested 22 per cent more in organic food in the Corona year than in 2019. With a plus of 35 per cent, farm stores, online retail (including delivery services), weekly markets, bakeries and butchers, and health food stores recorded the highest sales growth. Direct and online marketing boomed in particular, and organic subscription box services already had to greatly increase their capacity during the first lockdown to meet the demand.

In food retailing, too, more people were buying organic products. Sales of organic food and beverages there increased by 22 per cent. With a total of 9.05 billion euros, food retailers held a 60 per cent share of the organic market. Full-range retailers scored particularly strongly, as people like to buy less often and instead buy everything in one store.

According to BÖLW, organic topsellers were organic meat, organic flour, organic fruit and organic vegetables, with increases of between 70 per cent (poultry) and 25 per cent (fruit). According to preliminary figures from BÖLW, the organic share of the total food market increased by 6.4 per cent in 2020. Organic thus grew about twice as fast as the food market as a whole, BÖLW reports.

According to the BÖLW, the industry was able to cope with the enormous demand "because many farms converted in recent years". Because conversion takes years, organic products from these farms came to market with a delay. Thus, in 2020, the surge in demand was met by a surge in products from the new organic farms of previous years.

According to BÖLW figures, over 8,000 farms converted to organic farming in the last five years. Many organic farms relied on an organic farming association. In total, they converted 67,598 hectares to the particularly high standards of the association last year. Further, 35,413 of all farms operate organically. With an area of 1,698,764 hectares, 10.2 percent of all agricultural land is organic, according to the association. The 5.3 per cent increase in area provided an additional 84,930 organic hectares.

According to BÖLW, 3,351 companies entered the organic food sector in the past five years, an increase of 26 per cent. In 2020, the German industry thus counted 16,281 organic producers. BÖLW pointed out that the positive development should not hide the fact that there are also gaps in organic food production that need to be closed with the help of promotional, research and regulatory measures. "Without medium-sized food trades in the regions, an important building block for a food industry fit for grandchildren and resilient value chains would be missing," the press release states.

"Policy must set signals for sustainability"

BÖLW Chairman Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein used the growth in the organic sector to appeal to politicians: "The strong impetus from business and society can support politicians in solving problems that are more urgent today than ever before: the protection of climate, water, animals and biodiversity." This momentum, he said, must also be used by policymakers to address the lack of prospects on many farms.

A look at 2020 and previous years shows that the EU's target of 25 per cent organic by 2030, set by the Farm to Fork strategy, is achievable, he said. "To ensure that enough companies can take advantage of the organic opportunity in the future, policymakers must decisively set the signals for sustainability," Löwenstein said. Particularly in EU agricultural policy, he said, a change of course is needed. "At least 70 per cent of the money must be invested in voluntary environmental services by farmers," Löwenstein demands.

With the new room for maneuver that Brussels is allowing in agricultural policy, Germany would have a great deal of creative freedom with the national strategy plan. These should be used to shape the necessary restructuring of agriculture - and to give planning security to all those who are committed to a conversion to organic and thus to more sustainability.

At the opening of Biofach, German Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said, with a view to the figures, that the trend strengthened by Corona must be perceived and supported.


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