22 March 2022

European organic farming keeps growing as market sets record high


Organic land in Europe covers more than 17 million hectares, with a 5.3% increase year on year. But the biggest surge comes from consumers: in the midst of the pandemic, sales mark the highest growth of the decade

by Matteo Cavallito


Land area devoted to organic farming is growing in Europe, latest data released by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) has shown. In 2020, the last year for which complete data are available, organic farming in the European continent involved 17.1 million hectares, 14.9 of which within the EU. This last figure marks an increase of 700 thousand hectares, equal to 5.3% more than the previous survey.

Nevertheless, the numbers recorded by researchers show a slowdown in overall growth. Confirming a trend that has been underway for quite some time.

France, Spain and Italy are on top of the list

In the country ranking, France takes the first place with almost 2.5 million hectares of organic crops, followed by Spain (2.4 million), Italy (2.1) and Germany (1.7). Also certifying French supremacy is the data on annual growth with 307 thousand hectares higher than in 2019. The increase is smaller in Italy (102 thousand hectares) and Germany (88 thousand).

On balance, the percentage of organic crops on the total agricultural land reaches 3.4% in Europe and 9.2% in the EU. Among the 27 EU countries, Austria has the highest figure with 26.5% of land dedicated to organic farming. Italy is in fourth place (16%), behind Estonia (22.4%) and Sweden (20.3%). However, Italy has the highest number of producers with a total of 71,590, or about one-fifth of the EU total (350,000) and one-sixth of the entire continent (420,000).

Nella UE il 9% circa del suolo agricolo è soggetto a colture bio. Fonte: Eurostat © European Union, 1995 – today, free re-use of data

In the EU about 9% of agricultural land is used for organic crops. Source: Eurostat © European Union, 1995 – today, free re-use of data

Organic market boom

The growth of the sector is reflected in sales In 2020, the value of consumption in Europe marks €52 billion (44.8 in the EU), with a per capita expenditure of €63.3 (€101.8 in the 27 EU countries). About a third of the single market is covered by Germany (€14.99 billion). Sales are the most striking figures: driven by the Germany (+22.3%), 2020 sales recorded a growth rate of 14.9%, the highest in the decade.

In the period, says the Research Institute, “the organic markets in many countries exhibited double-digit growth due to the pandemic as people stayed home and began to cook more often.”

Key factors such as health, the environment and climate change, all of which seem to be increasingly influencing consumer choices, are also playing a crucial role. “If this trend continues,” the researchers say, “production and processing have to keep pace. The Farm to Fork strategy of the European Union can support this development with respective measures.”

USA is the world’s leading market

The industry’s growth momentum, in short, has proven stronger than external factors. This is definitively demonstrated by the global figure which, in the first year of the pandemic, is worth €120 billion, €14 billion more than in 2019. United States remains the leading market with a countervalue of almost 50 billion euros. In total, the Planet’s organic farmland covers 75 million hectares, 4.1% more than the previous year.

Almost half of the fields are located in Australia (35.7 million), the leading country in the ranking ahead of Argentina (4.5 million) and Uruguay (2.7). Finally, on a global scale, there are 3.4 million organic producers. 1.6 million in India alone.