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Overcoming barriers to conversion to organic farming in the European Union through markets for conversion products

The European Union currently imports substantial quantities of organic produce. Converting to organic agriculture is a risky decision for farmers, despite the support payments available. This project seeks to increase the conversion rate through the identification of existing constraints. Furthermore, in keeping with EU policy to encourage market mechanisms for the support of agriculture, the project investigates the potential for the growth and development of a niche market for horticulture, dairy and meat products from the second year of conversion. The project takes a food chain approach to the facilitation of conversion by including producer, retailer and consumer surveys. EU policies will be appraised in light of the findings of these surveys and the research findings and policy recommendations will be presented to representatives from the food industry and policy-making bodies.

The objectives of this project are:
1) to identify the incentives for agricultural producers to convert to organic methods of production
2) to identify and quantify the constraints within the EU that limit the conversion of agricultural producers to organic methods of production
3) to estimate the potential market demand for conversion-grade products within the study countries
4) to quantify the extent to which marketing conversion-grade products might reduce the constraints holding back the conversion of agricultural producers to organic methods of production
5) to identify constraints that might limit the marketing of conversion-grade products within the study countries
6) to identify potential mechanisms through which the identified constraints hindering the marketing of conversion-grade products might be alleviated
7) to make recommendations to the EU, Member State governments and the agricultural and food industries regarding policy actions that might facilitate the effective marketing of conversion-grade products.

It is clear that the conversion period is not itself a significant barrier to farmers converting to organic production. However, while there is evidence that consumers could be made to understand the concept of conversion-grade, it is unlikely that they would buy them in preference to certified organic products, which have more desirable and relevant qualities. In view of the low likelihood of government commitment to generic promotion of the conversion brand concept, and the difficulties and costs that retailers and manufacturers would have to face in building brand awareness, it is improbable that markets for conversion-grade products would ever be established beyond informal and local direct selling in spite of the short-term benefits that such marketing might offer to newly converted producers. While direct and local marketing of conversion-grade products is likely to continue, this will last just a year or two in each producer's case, until their conversion period is over and certified organic products become regularly available. Over time, as supply/demand equilibrium is reached in the wide market place, fewer conversions will take place and the supply of conversion-grade products will virtually cease.


Scientist responsible for the project

Earley Gate Box 237
RG6 6AR Reading
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 118 378 8155
Fax: +44 118 935 3423


Project ID QLRT-1999-31112
Organisation The University of Reading
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 1 272 058 €
Total EC contribution   1 043 413 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • Handelshoejskolen i Aarhus - The Aarhus School of Business, Denmark - DK

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