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Press Release 01/90

BEARING THE FRUIT: FAO STUDY URGES COUNTRIES TO DEVELOP ORGANIC FOOD MARKET, PROVIDES CAUTION TOO


Rome, 13 November 2001 -- The organic fruit and vegetable market offers significant potential for countries to increase their export earnings and diversify their agricultural base, according to a new FAO report titled World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables.

"Strong and steady growth in the sales of organic foods have provided these products with a viable and value-added market niche," said the 312-page report, jointly published by the FAO, the International Trade Centre and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation.

The report provides detailed information about the demand for the products in the world's largest organic markets, which are the US, Japan and European Community countries. It analyzes the prospects for further growth in sales. The report lists contact information of organizations in the organic sector, references and web pages. The report contains case studies of the organic sector in seven developing countries.

The report states that, "The economies of many developing countries are dependent on the export of a relatively small number of (mostly agricultural) commodities...Diversification of agricultural production is of utmost importance. Consumption of organic foods is expected to outgrow domestic production in developed countries, which will leave room for significant organic imports." This may provide some opportunities to developing countries.

However, the report sounds a note of caution; developing the organic sector can be difficult and risky, especially since producers often face regulatory and psychological obstacles relating to consumer's attitudes about organic food. On the legal front, producers must adhere to strict standards. In addition, developed countries may not want to accept products from developing countries, for they may not trust the organic certification systems of these products. Decision makers in the public and private sector in developing countries often lack the necessary information to make decisions regarding the development of organic production.

A FEW FINDINGS:

*The value of total organic food sales:
US (US$8,000 million)
Germany (US$2,100 million)
UK (US$1,000 million)
Italy (US$1,000 million).
France (US$850 million).
Switzerland ($US450 million).

*These numbers are significant, however, they are still a very small share of the total food market. Market shares of organic foods were found in most countries to be around one percent of total food sales.

*Impressive gains have been made within many countries in the past few years. Sales values have increased in most markets at an annual growth rate of 20 to 30 percent.

--In Germany, between 1993 and 1997, annual growth of organic fruit sales was eight percent, and 15 percent for organic vegetables.

--In Italy, organic fruit and vegetable retail sales have grown at an annual rate of about 85 percent during 1998-2000. In early 2001, after the detection of the first case of BSE in Italy, growth rates moved even higher as concerns of the safety of conventional food, particularly meat and meat products, triggered a strong extra demand for fruit and vegetables in general and organic produce in particular.

-- In 1987, only five farmers in Argentina were growing organic foods. Today, the organic sector is US$20 million. The variety of fruits and vegetables produced ranges from pears to apples to mandarins to grapes to beets and carrots.

*The report World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables was released at a conference in Trinidad and Tobago on organic horticulture in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Participants discussed the study's findings and ways to develop future standards and certification systems in the countries within the region. To visit the website for the conference visit:
http://www.fao.org/organicag/horticonf2001.htm

To visit the FAO website on organic agriculture, click:
http://www.fao.org/organicag

For a copy of the report, contact: Ms. Daniela Piergentili at (39) 06 5705 2864 or by email at daniela.piergentili@fao.org

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For more information, contact Mr John Riddle, FAO Media Relations, (06) 5705 3259
or john.riddle@fao.org


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