The risk to neglect consumption in the EU organic policy


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What if, instead of establishing the goal of having 25% of utilised agricultural area for organic products in 2030, the EU had determined a percentage of the consumption of organic products on all the food consumption, for example 15%?
Since the beginning, the EU has identified organic farming as the sector that can fulfil a growing demand in terms of health, environment, social and economic balance, respect for the land and guarantee of the future. With organic farming, we did not stop at a “banal environmentalism” but provided an economic response to environmental needs; In 2021, the organic sector had a turnover of almost EUR 47 billion in the EU and almost 125 worldwide.
The EU farm-to-fork strategy is one of the main levers and organic represents its key aspect with the goal of reaching 25% of the EU’s organic UAA (Utilised Agricultural Area) by 2030. It is an ambitious and strategic objective that has led the EU to shape the new CAP 2023-2027 with substantial resources dedicated to organic as never before.
Italy is in a good position as it reached 18,7% in 2022, while the EU is slightly lower at 9%. Although the UAA increased at the national level both in 2021 and, even more so, in 2022 to almost 2,35 million hectares, the same cannot be said for consumption which, whereas in 2021 it decreased in value by 4,6%, in 2022 it increased compared to 2021 by 0,5%, but with an inflation in agribusiness of 9,1% and thus with a clear reduction in volume. The impact of organic consumption on total agri-food consumption in Italy moved from 3,9 to 3,6% in 2022.
The causes that, despite agricultural policy objectives, have led to a stagnation in consumption have already been analysed in previous articles.
In light of these evaluations, we ask ourselves, and certainly not out of provocation, whether it would not have been better for the EU to have set the goal of achieving a certain percentage of organic food consumption out of the total food consumption, for instance 15% of consumption by 2030, and then a gradual adjustment on the basis of the results achieved.
This would have involved a “basket” of measures and incentives along the organic supply chain, making it more efficient and sustainable.

It would also have avoided the risk of creating a potential “yield” that in agriculture could favour the presence of producers unrelated to the organic market and, most importantly, of increasing areas in a phase of stagnating demand with the result of depressing raw material prices and, consequently, reducing the primary sector’s interest in organic farming.

Organic has always been more driven by demand than by production, which has increased in quantity and quality according to market demand. This is also the case of Italy, which, despite having a domestic demand that is lower than its production capacity, has always encouraged strong export flows that are favoured by a particularly capable and internationally appreciated food industry.

Setting a certain % consumption objective does not mean not intervening adequately in the primary sector; on the contrary, it means pushing even harder for stable consumption that is based on an agri-food chain capable of being effective and competitive.
Only an efficient supply chain able to provide concrete economic responses to its “stakeholders” can guarantee a flow of products in line with the needs of demand and avoid production and economic imbalances that facilitate excessive imports.
Fabrizio Piva

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