Organic farming statistics

Data from October 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update October 2017.

This article describes the situation of organic farming in the European Union (EU) in 2015. Wherever possible, a comparison to agriculture as a whole is made.

Not only has the total area under organic farming and the number of organic producers increased, but there is potential for further growth, as shown by the proportion of the area already fully converted to organic farming and the area still under conversion.

Table 1: Total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), by country, 2010 and 2015
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar_h) and (org_cropar)
Figure 1: Total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), by country, 2010 and 2015
(ha)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar_h) and (org_cropar)
Figure 2: Share of total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), EU-28, 2015
(% of total EU-28)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)
Figure 3: Share of total organic area (fully converted and under conversion) in total utilised agricultural area (UAA), by country, 2015 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar), (apro_acs_a) and (ef_mporganic)
Figure 4: Share of area under conversion, by country, 2015 (1)
(% of total organic area — fully converted and under conversion)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)
Figure 5: Arable land crops, permanent crops and permanent and meadows, by country, 2015
(% of total organic area — fully converted and under conversion)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropap)
Table 2: Organic area of total arable land and shares of main arable land crops, by country, 2015 (1)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)
Figure 6: Share of organic livestock in all livestock, by country, 2015
(% of number of heads)
Source: Eurostat (org_lstspec), (apro_mt_lscat), (apro_mt_lspig), (apro_mt_lsgoat) and (apro_mt_lssheep)
Figure 7: Share of organic producers, by country, 2015
(% of total EU-28)
Source: Eurostat (org_coptyp)
Figure 8: Share of organic holdings in total agricultural holdings, by country, 2010-13
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_mporganic)
Table 3: Number of organic holdings, by country, 2010–15 new.png
(%)
Source: Eurostat (org_coptyp_h) and (org_coptyp)
Table 4: Organic livestock, by country, 2015
Source: Eurostat (org_lstspec)
Table 5: Number of organic processors by type of economic activity (NACE Rev. 2), by country, 2015
Source: Eurostat (org_cpreact)
Figure 9: Average size of holdings, by country, 2013 (1)
(ha per holding)
Source: Eurostat (ef_mporganic)
Figure 10: Organic processors by type of economic activity, EU-28, 2015 (1)
(ha per holding)
Source: Eurostat (org_cpreact)

Main statistical findings

Total organic area

Total organic area continues increasing in the EU

The total organic area in the EU-28 (i.e. the area fully converted to organic production and area under conversion) was 11.1 million hectares (ha) in 2015 and it still expected to grow in the coming years. The increase in area between 2010 and 2015 was 21 % (see Table 1).

Between 2010 and 2015, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded growths of over 100 %. As showed in Figure 1, in absolute values, France (516 070 ha), Italy (378 837 ha) and Spain (353 523 ha) presented the three highest increases over the five years. Among the EU Member States, an upward trend was observed in all except two countries: the United Kingdom (– 29 %) and the Netherlands (– 4 %).

The size of the organic area differs considerably from one EU Member State to another. Four Member States accounted for more than half of all organically farmed land in 2015: Spain (18 %), Italy (13 %) France (12 %) and Germany (10 %), together making up 53 % of the total EU-28 organic area (see Figure 2). In 2014, these four countries represented 51 %.

Total organic area made up 6.2 % of total EU-28 UAA in 2015

From 2010 to 2015 [1], the total organic area (i.e. fully converted and under conversion) as a percentage of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA) within the EU rose from 5.2 % to 6.2 %.

Figure 3 shows the organic crop area as a percentage of the total UAA by country for 2015. In Austria, Sweden and Estonia, the share of organic area was over 15 %, while in the Czech Republic, Italy and Latvia it was over 10 % of the UAA. In the remaining EU Member States, the share of organic area range from 0.3 % in Malta to 10 % in Finland.

Potential for growth

The potential of organic production continued to rise in 2015

Organic production comes from fully converted areas. Before an area can be considered as ‘organic’, however, it must undergo a conversion process. The total organic area is the sum of the ‘area under conversion’ and the ‘fully converted area’. The area under conversion as a percentage of the total organic area can give an indication of the potential growth in the organic sector in the years to come. In 2015[2], four EU Member States had shares of less than 10 % (the United Kingdom presented the lowest value at 4.0 %), eight EU Member States had shares between 10 % and 20 % and fourteen exceeded 20 % with the biggest shares for Bulgaria (81.8 %), Croatia (66.0 %) and Lithuania (38.5 %) (see Figure 4).

Crop types

Pastures and Meadows represented 45.4 % of the EU-28 total organic crop area in 2015

Organic production area is divided into three main crop types: arable land crops (mainly cereals, fresh vegetables, green fodder and industrial crops), permanent crops (fruit trees and berries, olive groves and vineyards) and permanent grassland.

Pasture and meadows (mostly used for grazing organic livestock) exceeded 5 million ha, which represented 45.4 % of the EU-28 total organic crop area. Arable crops followed closely with 42.0 %, while permanent crops made up the smallest share (10.7 %).

In 9 EU Member States arable land crops accounted for more than 50 % of the organic area, while in 14 Member States pasture and meadows predominated (> 50 % of organic area). Arable crops were highly predominant in Finland, Denmark and Sweden with shares of 98 %, 79 %, and 77 % respectively. Ireland (94 %), the Czech Republic (85 %) and Slovenia (82 %) were in the lead in terms of pasture and meadows (see Figure 5).

In most EU Member States permanent crops accounted for a relatively low share of the fully converted area of these three main types (in 15 EU Member States it was less than 5 % of the converted area). In 2015, permanent crops accounted for between 10 % and 20 % in Croatia, Greece, Portugal, while in Italy, Bulgaria and Spain the share was over 20 %. Cyprus and Malta had the highest shares, with 48 % and 63 % respectively. Olive trees dominated in these two countries.

Among the arable crops, cereals and green fodder occupied the largest area. In 12 EU Member States, these two categories together accounted for more than 80 % of the total organic arable land (fully converted and under conversion) in 2015. Lithuania and Germany had the highest share of cereals among the Member States (62.7 % and 52.0 % respectively), and Sweden and Finland the highest proportion of green fodder (65.8 % and 60.1 % respectively). Bulgaria (34.3 %) had the highest share of industrial crops, while Malta (50.0 %) and the Netherlands (30.5 %) had the highest proportion of fresh vegetables in the EU-28 (see Table 2).

Organic livestock

Bovine and sheep remained the most popular species

The 2015 figures for organic livestock as a share of all livestock showed that, with respect to bovine, pigs and sheep, in some EU Member States remarkably large shares of animals were reared using organic methods — bovine and sheep being the most popular. Austria had the largest share both organic production for sheep and goats (33  % of total sheep and goat production) and for organic pig production (2.8 %). Organically reared bovine in Austria (17 %) were one of the three highest shares in the EU-28 (see Figure 6).

In Sweden, 20 % of the total bovine population were reared organically, which was the highest percentage of the EU-28. Eight EU Member States had over 10 % of organic bovine, with the highest shares reported in Latvia, Sweden and the already mentioned Austria. For most EU Member States organically reared pigs accounted for less than 1 % of the total pig population.

As regards organic livestock composed of bovine, pigs and sheep, five Member States stood out with their important organic livestock: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Denmark. France and Germany had the largest number of bovine organic livestock; Italy and the United Kingdom of sheep, while Denmark had the highest share of pig organic livestock (see Table 4).

Organic operators

More than 80 % of organic operators were producers

Activities within the organic sector include the food chain from production at farm level right through to industrial processing. Imports, exports and other activities, such as wholesale and retail trade, are also included.

The production of organic crops and the rearing of organic animals are the main activities in the organic sector at farm level, but the processing of goods is also important. Producers accounted for over 80 % of the 340 322 operators in 2015 in the EU-28.

Organic farming is gaining around

For most of the countries in the EU-28, the share of organic holdings grew between 2010 and 2013 (latest data available from the Farm structure survey), with the highest increase recorded for Slovenia. However, for 7 Member States, this share declined, with the United Kingdom showing the most significant decrease (see Figure 8).

The number of organic producers increased by 23.5 % between 2010 and 2015

In 2015, there were over 271 500 organic producers in the EU-28. Spain and France each accounted for over 10 % of the EU-28 total, with Italy being the frontrunner with 19.4 %. Germany, Austria, Poland and Greece each had shares above 5 %. In 11 EU Member States the share was under 1 % (see Figure 7).

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of organic holdings in the EU rose by 23.4 %. The highest increases were recorded in Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia (over 100 %), while drops were registered in the United Kingdom (-31 %) and Greece (-7 %) (see Table 3).

The average size of agricultural holdings in general was larger in the organic sector

The average size of organic agricultural holdings in 2013 was estimated at 36.7 ha for the EU-28 as a whole, compared with 16.1 ha for all agricultural holdings. In general, the average size of holdings in the organic sector was larger than for all holdings in most EU Member States and smaller only in Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. The most noticeable differences were seen in Slovakia (476.2 ha for organic holdings compared with 80.7 ha for all holdings) and Hungary (119.2 ha compared with 9.5 ha) (see Figure 9).

Manufacture of organic products

Bakery and farinaceous products still dominating

On the basis of the NACE Rev.2 classification, in 2015, most of the 37 200 organic processors in 25 EU Member States, where data was available [3], were engaged in the processing and preserving of bakery and farinaceous products (17 %), fruit and vegetables (16 %) and the processing of vegetable and animal oils and fats (14 %) (see Table 5 and Figure 10). Italy and France dominated the ranking of the number of organic processors within the nine categories of food manufacturing activities. France had the highest number of processors in the meat and meat products and bakery and farinaceous prodcuts. Italy top ranked in all the other categories except for fish crustaceans and molluscs for which Greece had the most numerous processors.

Data sources and availability

The statistical information presented in this publication is drawn from the Eurostat database, available at the Eurostat website. Organic farming data exist in the European statistics in two different datasets:

  • Organic farming statistics;
  • Farm structure survey (FSS).


Organic farming statistics

Annual data collection. Data are provided by the Member States and Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Serbia on the basis of a harmonised questionnaire. Data in this annual collection originates in the administrative data of national entities in charge of the certification of operators involved in the organic sector. Up to reference year 2007, data provision was voluntary. From reference year 2008 onwards, data have to be delivered following Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, implementing Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008.

Terminology

  • Organic operator: any natural or legal person who produces, prepares, imports, exports or deals with organic products.
  • Organic producer: any natural or legal person who operates an agricultural holding involved in producing, packaging and labelling his own organic products.
  • Organic processor: any natural or legal person who preserves and/or processes organic agricultural produce (including slaughter and butchering of livestock). Packaging and labelling of organic products is also considered to be processing.
  • Mixed organic operator: operator involved in more than one of the activities, e.g. a producer who is also processing (not only his own products).

Statistics on the structure of agricultural holdings (FSS)

The Farm structure survey (FSS) is conducted every 10 years (full-scope Agricultural Census) and intermediate surveys (sample-based) in between. Availability of data by year and country can be found here. The statistical unit is the agricultural holding. In the FSS organic data has been collected since the 2000 Census. The type of data collected has changed throughout the various editions of the FSS as shown in Table 6.

Table 6: Availability of organic farming data in FSS
Source: Eurostat, Farm Structure Survey

Livestock statistics

The Livestock survey data is used for comparing the organic livestock data with the data on total livestock production. It is an annual data collection. The statistical unit is agricultural holding, in the case of the data used in this article, the reference period is a given day in the month of December.

Crop statistics

The annual crop statistics data is used for comparing the organic crop area with the total utilised agriculture area, "main area" which corresponds to the area of the land parcels. The statistical unit is parcel cultivated for the production of a crop. The reference period used for this article is the final data for 2015.


  • The development of the European organic sector (new EU instruments, developing research and innovation, and also targeting consumer awareness);
  • Ensuring consumer confidence in the organic products (more research and innovation to overcome challenges in organic rules);
  • Reinforce the external dimension of EU organic production.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Organic farming (t_org)

Database

Organic farming (org)
Organic operators (from 2013 onwards) (org_coptyp)
Organic crop area and production (from 2013 onwards) (org_cropap)
Organic livestock (from 2013 onwards) (org_lstspec)
Organic products of animal origin (from 2013 onwards) (org_aprod)
Organic products of aquaculture (from 2013 onwards) (org_aqtspec)
Processors for the manufacturing of organic products (from 2013 onwards) (org_cpreact)


Farm structure (ef)
Farm Structure - 2008 legislation (from 2005 onwards) (ef_main)
Farm management and practices (ef_mp)
Organic farming: number of farms, areas with different crops and heads of different types of animals by agricultural size of farm (UAA) and NUTS 2 regions (ef_mporganic)
Farm Structure - 1988 legislation (1990-2007) (ef_historic)


Agriculture production (apro)
Crops products (apro_cp)
Crop statistics (area, production and yiled) (apro_acs)
Crops statistics (from 2000 onwards) (apro_acs_a)
Livestock and meat (apro_mt)
Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
Cattle population – annual data (apro_mt_ltscatl)
Goats population – annual data (apro_mt_lsgoat)
Sheep population – annual data (apro_mt_lssheep)
Pig population – annual data (apro_mt_lspig)

Dedicated sections

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007  of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation 2092/91
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008 of 5 September 2008 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control

External links

Notes

  1. Organic production area in 2010 and 2015 compared with UAA from the Annual crop statistics 2010 and 2015.
  2. Data not available for Germany and Austria.
  3. Data not available for Germany, Malta and Austria.