Organic Agriculture: Opportunities and Trends

Organic Agriculture: Opportunities and Trends

Mirela Stoian (Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Romania) and Diana Caprita (Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5739-5.ch013

Abstract

Promoting sustainability, including the production and consumption of food, is badly needed nowadays, given the fact that consumers are increasingly concerned about protecting their health, through a thorough verification of food quality. From this perspective, organic food may represent a viable solution for a healthier future. Currently, we are witnessing a substantial increase in the number of countries, organizations, and companies encouraging organic farming, an economic activity that involves environmentally friendly agricultural practices. The main objective of this chapter is to reveal the growing importance of organic farming to the food markets. This research will also focus on presenting a very detailed analysis of the defining elements of organic agriculture, such as the evolution of certified organic surfaces, both contributory and disfavoring factors of the developing organic agriculture, and last but not least, overall outlook for global consumption of certified organic products.
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Introduction

21st century consumer is concerned about both food quality and environmental protection. Considering this new perspective, producers have adequately responded to the stimulated demand. New market opportunities have developed as part of a business strategy to address consumer concerns, particularly in the European Union and the United States.

Major food companies see the processing, handling, stocking and promoting of organic foods as part of a positive public image, with consistent benefits in the demand section. Thus, preponderant concern for healthy ingredients increase domestic sales and become a serious component of marketing campaigns. Retailers of all sizes are using this strategy, aggressively promoting organic foods and sustaining organic markets, with major food retailing chains now accounting for an important share of the retail markets, for both fresh and processed foods.

Consumers are becoming more and more skeptical about the safety of conventional foods and the credibility of industrial agriculture is seriously questioned. The habit of using growth regulators (such as Alar in the United States) stimulated consumer’s interest in organic food. The crisis over dioxin-contaminated food and livestock diseases (such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth in Europe) further increased demand for organic food. Consumer surveys organized in almost every country show a market segment that demands an alternative to genetically modified foods. Governments have responded to these concerns by setting targets for the expansion of organic production. Although the progress made in this sector is consistent, there are still efficient methods which can be used in order to improve the current unsatisfactory results. Regarding the cultivated areas which are respecting the principles of organic agriculture, these are still insufficient to meet the growing demand for organic products. According to Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International, in 2015 the total area of ecological agricultural land amounted 50.9 million hectares, unevenly distributed, as follows: Oceania 45%, Europe 25%, Latin America 13%, Asia 8%, North America 6% and Africa 3%. Compared with the last report, regarding the result from 2014, it should be pointed out the fact that the overall area which represents ecological agricultural land has increased with 6.5 million ha, the largest growth recorded until now. The ranking of the top three states with remarkable results in this field is maintained for several years in the same formula: Australia (22.7 million ha with 97% used for grazing), Argentina (3.1 million ha), US (2 million ha) and the top is completed by Spain, China, Italy, France, Uruguay, India and Germany. Eleven countries have reached the point in which the organic agricultural land represents more than 10% of their total farmland. In this respect, the countries with the largest share are: Liechtenstein (30.2%), Austria (21.3%), Sweden (16.9%) and the rest of the list is completed by: Estonia (16.5%), Sao Tome and Principe (13.8%), Switzerland (13.1%), Latvia (12.8%), Falkland Islands (12.5%), Italy (11.7%), Czech Republic (11.3%), Finland (10%). Beside organic agricultural land there are vast, non-agricultural territories which are also considered organic (forests, aquaculture, wild collection, grazing) totalizing 39.7 million hectares (data collected in 2015). The countries in which we find most part of this surface are: Finland (12.2 million ha), Zambia (6.6 million ha) and India (3.7 million ha).

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