Organic farming is a method of production that respects the environment and guarantees high levels of animal welfare. Those requirements are defined in a highly rigorous set of mandatory specifications, mostly coordinated at the EU level, systematically backed up by inspections. This type of production rules out the use of synthetic chemicals and GMOs, in addition to limiting the use of farm inputs.
The food products issuing from this type of production are labeled with a specific logo. Since July 1st 2010, the EU organic farming logo has been mandatory on all organic products. The logo might be accompanied by the French AB mark, which is strongly recognized by French consumers.
‘Organic farming’ is among the five official French quality and origin labels. This one reflects products linked to an agricultural system respectful of the environment and animal welfare.
HISTORY OF ORGANIC FARMING
The first official recognition of organic farming in France goes back to the Agricultural Reform Law of 1980. A national committee was created and made responsible for the organization and development of French organic farming, as well as for the approval of specifications.
In 2001, the Agence BIO, a French public-interest group was set up with the aim to develop and promote this type of production.
Since 2007, INAO, the French National Institute for Origin and Quality, is in charge of the follow up of the implementation of organic farming.
A wide range of farm and food products, both fresh and processed, is available through various distribution channels: specialized stores, grocery stores and supermarkets, bakeries and butcher’s shops, direct farm sales, sales in street markets, over the Internet and in the catering industry.
ORGANIC FARMING IN FIGURES (2010 STATISTICS)
Organic farming includes nearly 23,100 organic farms (4.6% of total agricultural holdings), an increase of 12% over 2010 and 50% over 2002.
950,000 hectares have been converted or still in conversion in 2011 (3.4% of France’s agricultural area). About half of the organic surfaces in 2010, were located in five regions (Midi-Pyrenées, Pays de Loire, Rhône-Alpes, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence-Alpes-Cotes-d’Azur).This area cultivated in organic farming is composed by 61 % of grasslands or in forage crops, 20% of grains, and 8% of vineyards or orchards.
The main areas converted were forage crops, grasslands and cereals. This dynamic is also reflected by the importance of the conversion of groves, vineyard, nut trees, and fresh fruits (more than half of the areas are in conversion).
The animal production changes step by step in organic farming:
- An increase of 6% over 2009 for cattle breeding
- An increase of 16% over 2009 for poultry farming, mostly in Brittany and Auvergne
- An increase of 30% over 2009 for pork breeding with an organic livestock of 6,348 heads of breeding sows.
- The organic sheep breeding continues its development, in particular in dairy.
In 2010, 62% organic farms produce crops of some kind.
Half of organic producers make direct-sales by different methods: at the farm, at markets or shows, by delivering baskets… This method of sale is mainly practiced in the sheep breeding sector (cheese), in viticulture (private wineries), in fruits and fresh vegetables sector (sale on market and by basket).
More than 7,000 operators are certified for the processing of organic products. The total number of organic operators (including producers, processors, distributors and importers) rose above 35,100 in 2011.
The strong growth in the numbers of such farms is confirmed by parallel structural growth in the market for organic food, which has registered an expansion of more than 10% a year for the last ten years. Between 2009 and 2010, purchases by end consumers have progressed by 10.8% in value.
The government is assisting this balanced development of supply and demand by means of a national action plan.
FRENCH POLICY TO PROMOTE ORGANIC FARMING
In September 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture published an action plan to develop and promote organic farming in France. The main goal was to increase subsequently the French agricultural area to be farmed ‘organically’. This plan was designed during the “Grenelle de l’environnement”. It is implemented in cooperation with all stakeholders, producers, processors and industry, retail and consumers. Five main priorities have been set:
- To make the conversion and long-term viability of the production sector easier: a tax credit is granted to organic farmers. It can be allocated in addition to a conversion grant and the support from the Common Agricultural Policy. It can be enhanced at the regional level.
- To improve research, development and training in this sector: By increasing the funds allocated to the research and by including the issue in the educational background (all students in agricultural teaching establishments has been received since 2008 at least a basic training in this domain).
- To promote regulatory adjustments: France pays attention that the regulations at both national and EU levels take effectively into account the specific features of organic farming.
- To reorganize the sector: with 3 million euros every year, the Agence Bio implements a program to support professional projects that streamline the structure of the supply chain in order to increase the supply of organic products in France and to meet the growing demand.
- To encourage school cafeterias to serve more organic products: by 2012, cafeteria meals should be composed of 20% of organic products.
This ambitious policy to promote organic farming has already paid off. Indeed, the production and the number of farms involved in this way of production become more and more important every year. Moreover, since 2008, the market for food products from organic farms has expended by 32%, while prices remained generally stable.
In Nuremberg, Germany, on Feb. 15, 2012-The European Union and the United States signed an agreement on organic farming. They announced that beginning June 1, 2012, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either country.
To learn more:
Europa Press Release