Organic farming statistics
- Data extracted in November 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update January 2019.
This article describes the situation of organic farming in the European Union (EU) in 2016. Wherever possible, a comparison with agriculture as a whole is made. It is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat publication Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics
The total area under organic farming continues to increase, and in 2016 covered almost 12 million hectares of agricultural land. There is potential for further growth, as shown by the proportion of area still under conversion.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 See also
- 4 Further Eurostat information
- 5 External links
- 6 Notes
Main statistical findings
Total organic area
Total organic area continues to increase in the EU
The total organic area in the EU-28 was 11.9 million hectares (ha) in 2016 and is still expected to grow in the coming years. The increase in organic area between 2012 and 2016 was 18.7 % (see Table 1). The total organic area is the sum of the ‘area under conversion’ and the ‘fully converted area’. Before an area can be considered as ‘organic’, it must undergo a conversion process, which may take 2-3 years depending on the crop.
Between 2012 and 2016, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded growth in the total organic area of over 100 %. However, five EU Member States reported a downward trend: Greece (-25.9 %), Malta (-35.1 %), Poland (-18.1 %), Romania (-21.5 %) and the United Kingdom (-16.9 %). In the case of Malta however, the organic area is small and the 35 % reduction is in absolute numbers only 13 hectares. As shown in Figure 1a, Spain, Italy and France had the three highest total organic areas both in 2012 and 2016. Figure 1b illustrates the countries with smaller organic crop areas, below 100 000 ha.
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 2016: Spain (16.9 %), Italy (15.1 %) France (12.9 %) and Germany (9.5 %), together making up 54.4 % of the total EU-28 organic area (see Figure 2). In 2015, these four countries represented 52.8 %.
Total organic area made up 6.7 % of total EU-28 UAA in 2016
Figure 3 shows the organic crop area as a percentage of the total UAA by country for 2016. In Austria, Sweden and Estonia, the share of organic area was over 18 %, while in Italy, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Finland it was over 10 % of the UAA. In the remaining EU Member States, the share of organic area ranges from 0.2 % in Malta to 9.8 % in Slovakia.
Potential for growth
The potential for organic production continued to rise in 2016
Organic production comes from fully converted areas. 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 2016 only the United Kingdom had a share of less than 10 %, while ten EU Member States had shares between 10 % and 20 % and fifteen exceeded 20 % (see Figure 4). The largest shares were recorded for Bulgaria (77.5 %), Croatia (68.8 %) and Hungary (51.0 %).
Permanent grassland represented 45.1 % of the EU-28 total organic crop area in 2016
Organic production area is divided into three main crop types: arable land crops (mainly cereals, fresh vegetables, green fodder and industrial crops), permanent grassland (pastures and meadows), and permanent crops (fruit trees and berries, olive groves and vineyards).
Pasture and meadows (mostly used for grazing organic livestock) exceeded 5 million ha, which represented 45.1 % of the EU-28 total organic crop area. Arable crops followed closely with 44.0 %, while permanent crops made up the smallest share (10.9 %).
In 10 EU Member States arable land crops accounted for more than 50 % of the organic area, while in 15 Member States pasture and meadows predominated (> 50 % of organic area). Arable crops were highly predominant in Finland, Denmark and Sweden with shares of 99.0 %, 83.4 %, and 77.9 % respectively. Ireland (92.0 %), the Czech Republic (85.6 %) and Slovenia (81.5 %) were in the lead in terms of pasture and meadows (see Figure 5).
In most EU Member States, permanent crops accounted for the lowest share of these three main crop categories in the organic area (in 16 EU Member States it was less than 5 % of the organic area). In 2016, permanent crops accounted for between 10 % and 20 % in Croatia, Greece and Portugal, while in Bulgaria, Spain and Italy the share was over 20 %. Cyprus and Malta had the highest shares, with 46.1 % and 62.5 % respectively. Olive trees dominated in these two countries.
Bovines and sheep remained the most popular species
The 2016 figures for organic livestock as a share of all livestock showed that, with respect to bovines, pigs and sheep, in some EU Member States remarkably large shares of animals were reared using organic methods — bovines and sheep being the most popular species. Austria had the largest shares of both organic production for 'sheep and goats' (34.3 % of total sheep and goat production) and for organic pig production (2.32 %) and the second highest share of organically reared bovines (20.7 %) of the EU-28 (see Figure 6).
Latvia was in the lead regarding organic bovines, with 22 % of the total bovine population reared organically. In total eight EU Member States had over 10 % of organic bovines, with Sweden third after the previously mentioned Latvia and Austria. For most EU Member States organically reared pigs accounted for only a small share of the total pig population.
Fully organic farm holdings
Agricultural land managed by fully organic farm holdings
The annual statistics presented above do not specify on which type of holding the organic area is located. Ideally, an organic farm should have the whole farm area certified organic to avoid mixing the agricultural products, which risks misleading the consumers who want to buy organic products. An exception is when land is under conversion to organic. The reality is different, and there are a significant number of farms with mixed organic and non-organic production in the EU. Data from the Farm Structure Survey can be used to further describe the situation.
The share of UAA managed by fully organic farms in 2013 was 2.7 % (see Figure 7). Partially organic farms (i.e. farms with both non-organic and organic area) managed 3.1 % of the total UAA, while farms with no organic area managed the remaining 94.2 %.
The number of fully organic farms is increasing
Table 2 shows the number of farms with no organic area, partially organic farms and fully organic farm holdings in 2010 and 2013 for the EU countries, as well as the total UAA and Annual work units (AWU) of each of these categories.
At EU level, the number of fully organic farms increased from 2010 to 2013, while the number of partially organic farms decreased (Table 2). It indicates that there is an ongoing process to create fully organic farms. The non-organic holdings' share in total farm holdings decreased by 0.34 percentage points from 2010 to 2013, and the share of fully organic holdings increased 0.30 percentage points representing 1.05 % of all farm holdings in 2013. This varies of course between countries, see further below. The UAA managed by fully organic farms also increased by 34 % from 2010 to 2013.
The majority of organic farms in 14 EU countries fully organic farms
Figure 8 shows the farm holdings which have all their UAA under organic management as a share of all farms with any organic area, per EU Member State. The fully organic farms' share ranges from 95.0 % in Germany, to 0.5 % in Romania. The share of fully organic farms is above 50 % of farms with any organic area in Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, France, Estonia, Slovakia, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and Sweden.
Small difference in work force on organic and non-organic farms of comparable size
The labour force, measured as annual work units (AWU), employed on fully organic farms increased by almost 42 % between 2010 and 2013, from around 123 000 to almost 174 000 (Table 2). It should however be noted that AWU is reported in bands and not in exact figures/hours. The lowest AWU allocated is 0.125 AWU. It means that on small farms, the AWU may be skewed towards a too high allocation.
At EU level (see Table 2), the average size of the labour force per farm was 0.9 annual work units for the non-organic farms, and 1.5 for the fully organic farms. However, the average size of utilised agricultural area on a non-organic holding was 16 hectares, while on a fully organic holding the average was 41 hectares. This size difference has a large influence and it is not possible to compare the average number of hectares managed per annual work unit in this sample. To analyse a possible impact of "organic" on the annual work units it is necessary to find a comparable sample.
Excluding farms smaller than 10 hectares gives a comparable average size of fully organic farms and non-organic farms, described as average UAA per holding (Table 3). For the purpose of having a comparable sample, countries with fewer than 100 fully organic farms in the size category "10 hectares and above" are excluded. This leaves 21 Member States (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) in 2013. These countries had close to 99 % of all fully organic holdings "10 hectares and above" in 2013, and 92 % of the total non-organic farms "10 hectares and above".
The average UAA per holding in this sample is approximately 62 hectares in both groups (Table 3). The average UAA per AWU was slightly lower in the fully organic group, 34.2 hectares, than in the group of non-organic holdings where it was 36.7 hectares. The average AWU per fully organic holding was slightly higher, 1.82 AWU per farm, than the average of the non-organic farms, where it was 1.69. Eurostat foresees a fuller analysis of the fully organic farms once the 2016 FSS data becomes available in 2018.
Data sources and availability
Organic farming statistics
Annual data collection. Data are provided by the EU Member States and Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia on the basis of a harmonised questionnaire. Data in this annual collection originates from 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 Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008, implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007.
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.
Terminology used in this article
- Fully organic farm: a farm holding with agricultural land that is exclusively "certified organic" or "under conversion to organic".
- Partially organic farm: a farm holding with agricultural land certified and/or under conversion to organic, and conventional agricultural land on same holding.
- Non-organic farm: a farm which has no production in accordance to Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and Regulation (EC) No 889/2008.
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.
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 2016.
Further Eurostat information
- Organic farming, see:
- Organic farming (org)
- Organic operators by status of the registration process (from 2012 onwards) (org_coptyp)
- Organic crop area by agricultural production methods and crops (from 2012 onwards) (org_cropar)
- Organic crop production by crops (from 2012 onwards) (org_croppro)
- Organic livestock of animals (from 2012 onwards) (org_lstspec)
- Organic production of animal products (from 2012 onwards) (org_aprod)
- Organic production of aquaculture products (from 2012 onwards) (org_aqtspec)
- Processors of organic products by NACE Rev. 2 activity (C) (from 2012 onwards) (org_cpreact)
- Agriculture, see:
- Farm structure (ef)
- Farm Structure - 2008 legislation (from 2005 onwards) (ef_main)
- Agriculture production (apro)
- Crops products (apro_cp)
- Crop statistics (area, production and yield) (apro_acs)
- Crops statistics (from 2000 onwards) (apro_acs_a)
- Crop statistics (area, production and yield) (apro_acs)
- Livestock and meat (apro_mt)
- Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
- Bovine population - annual data (apro_mt_lscatl)
- Goats population – annual data (apro_mt_lsgoat)
- Sheep population – annual data (apro_mt_lssheep)
- Pig population – annual data (apro_mt_lspig)
- Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
- Crops products (apro_cp)
Methodology / Metadata
- Organic farming (ESMS metadata file — org_esms)
- Farm structure survey (ESMS metadata file — ef_esms)
- Crop statistics (ESMS metadata file — apro_acs_esms)
- Livestock and meat (ESMS metadata file — apro_mt_esms)
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
- 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
- DG Agriculture and Rural Development — Organic farming
- Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
- FAO Organic Agriculture Programme
- For plants and plant products to be considered organic, the production rules must have been applied on the parcels of land during a conversion period of at least two years before sowing, or, in the case of grassland or perennial forage, at least two years before its use as feed from organic farming, or, in the case of perennial crops other than forage, at least three years before the first harvest of organic products.
- UAA from the Annual crop statistics.
- Data not available for Germany and Austria.
- "non-organic" means not coming from or not related to a production in accordance to Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and Regulation (EC) No 889/2009.
- Excluding Croatia.