Intensive farming is coming under increasing pressure to conform to the principles of sustainability and consumers are demanding produce free of chemical residues. As a result, green or ecologically-friendly agriculture is increasingly being adopted around the world. Organic farming has a long history and has the advantage that more and more countries are adopting regulations about the use of the term organic; this is helping to build public confidence in the concept. Principles of organic production may well vary from region to region but there are certain legal minima which must be met in order to conform with the Codex Alimentarius regulations on organic produce (latest edition, 2001) (1). Although growing public confidence in organic labels is helpful, organic production units are often small-scale in nature which can make it difficult for a grower to guarantee continuity of supply to importers and to market their products adequately. Developing countries may need to assist organic producers to achieve economies of scale, e.g. through the formation of co-operatives.
Apart from regulations which apply to the production of organic produce, there are certain specific post-harvest activities which need to be modified to comply with organic regulations. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM, http://www.ifoam.org) has proposed specific guidelines for post-harvest activities associated with the production of organic coffee, cocoa and tea. This report covers the wider area of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables; and contains many references to the draft IFOAM basic standards 2002 (2).
1.2 World Trade
The value of the world organic market was estimated to be over US$ 15 billion in 2000 (Table 1). The USA and Germany dominate this figure. Despite this apparent large scale, the estimated share of organic products in total food sales is around 1%; the highest estimated share is in Denmark, where organic produce is estimated to reach 3% of total food sales.Organic fruit and vegetable sales account for around 20% of the total organic sales and represent around 2-10% of all fruit and vegetable sales in the developed countries for which estimates have been made (Table 1).
Table 1. Value and shares of organic markets in 2000 (figures rounded).
Country Estimated value of total organic sales (US $ Million) Estimated value of organic fruit and vegetable sales (US $ Million) Estimated share of organic in total Fruit (F) and Vegetable (V) sales (%) Austria 195 29 3 F, 5 V Belgium 138 34 - Denmark 372 - - France 846 169 - Germany 2 128 378 2.6 Italy 978 264 2 Japan 350 - - Netherlands 210 - - Sweden 175 31 1.7 Switzerland 457 - 5 F, 10 V United Kingdom 986 300 05-Oct United States of America 8 000 1 450 -
Source: FAO/ITC/CTA 2001 (2).
The organic market follows the trends of conventional products. Bananas and citrus fruit are generally the largest volume fruit imports. Other principal fruit imports are pineapples, mangoes, and avocados (but in lower quantities, as a result of more demanding storage requirements). The vegetable market is generally less developed.
1.3 Consumer Preferences
Unfortunately for developing countries, affluent consumers in Europe, USA and Japan prefer organic products from their own country or region. This partly reflects a distrust of other countrys certification systems; but in part may be a reaction to the view that transporting foodstuffs internationally is wasteful of fossil fuels. The UK and Belgium have smaller domestic organic production and consumers show less difference in trust between domestically-grown and imported organic products (3).
Given these consumer prejudices, the best opportunities for developing countries are likely to be found in their closest affluent market, for:
- fresh tropical or sub-tropical organic produce;
- fresh counter-seasonal temperate organic produce;
- processed organic produce which is in short supply.