Statistics Explained

Organic farming statistics



Data from February 2022

Planned update: February 2023

Highlights

The total area under organic farming in the EU continues to increase, and in 2020 covered 14.7 million hectares of agricultural land.

Organic area made up 9.1 % of total EU agricultural land in 2020.

In 2020, Sweden had the highest shares of organic cereals (7.1 %) and fresh vegetables (17.8 %) in its total production, while Greece had the highest share of organic bovine animals (30.3 %).

Organic area 2020.png

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

Full article

Key messages

  • Organic farming covered around 14.7 million hectares of agricultural land in the EU in 2020 corresponding to 9.1 % of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA). This represents a steep rise from the 9.5 million hectares used for organic agricultural production in 2012.
  • Between 2012 and 2020, the share of the agricultural area used for organic farming increased in all EU Member States except for Poland.
  • The countries with the highest shares of organic farm areas within total UAA in 2020 were Austria (25 %), Estonia (22 %) and Sweden (20 %).
  • There tend to be higher rates of organic grazing livestock than for other livestock. For example, just over one third (36.0 %) of sheep and goats in both Latvia and Austria were raised according to organic farming methods. Likewise, just under one third (30.3 %) of bovine animals in Greece were organic. However, rates were much lower for pigs, the highest share being in Denmark (3.4 %).
  • Managers of organic farm holdings tend to be younger than managers of non-organic holdings. The share of farm managers under 40 years of age was twice as large for organic farms (21.0 %) as for non-organic farms (10.5 %).

Total organic area

Total organic area continues to increase in the EU

The total organic area in the EU was 14.7 million hectares (ha) in 2020, up from 13.8 million hectares in 2019 and 9.5 million hectares in 2012. The increase in organic area between 2012 and 2020 was of 56 % (see Table 1). The total organic area is the sum of the 'area under conversion' and the 'certified area'[1]. Before an area can be certified as 'organic', it must undergo a conversion process, which may take 2-3 years depending on the crop[2].

Table 1: Total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), by country, 2012 and 2020
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)

France had 2.5 million hectares of land area used for organic agricultural production in 2020, the highest among the EU Member States. It was almost one and half times more than the equivalent area in 2012. Spain and Italy also had more than 2 million hectares of land area used for organic agricultural production in 2020, together the two Member States adding a further 1.6 million hectares of organic area. France (17.1 %), Spain (16.6 %), Italy (14.2 %) and Germany (10.8 %) together accounted for well over half (58.7 %) of the EU’s total organic area in 2020 (see Figure 1).

Between 2012 and 2020, the agricultural area used for organic farming increased in all EU Member States except for Poland. The area at least doubled in Bulgaria, France, Croatia and Hungary. In Poland, the organic area declined by a little over one fifth (-22.3 %).


Figure 1: Share of EU total organic area (fully converted and under conversion), 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)


Organic area made up 9.1 % of the EU agricultural land in 2020

From 2012 to 2020, the share of total organic area in the EU's total utilised agricultural area (UAA) rose from 5.9 % to 9.1 %[3].

The countries with the highest shares of organic land farm areas within total UAA in 2020 were Austria[4] (25 %), Estonia (22 %) and Sweden (20 %) - see Figure 2. Italy, Czechia, Latvia, Finland, Slovakia, Denmark, Slovenia and Greece also had shares above 10 %. By contrast, the share of organic farming was below 5 % in eight EU Member States, with the lowest shares in Ireland and Malta.

In all EU Member States, organic crop areas were mainly certified[5]. In 2020, in 8 EU Member States (Lithuania, the Netherlands, Czechia, Sweden, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Luxembourg), more than 90 % of organic crop areas were reported as certified. Other 14 EU Member States had shares of 'certified organic' between 70 % and 90 %. The lowest shares of certified areas were recorded for Hungary (64.1 %), Malta (61.2 %) and Romania (58.9 %), which means that there is a high potential for further growth in certified area in these countries in the next years. Due to the 2-3 years conversion period of agricultural land, a high share of area under conversion is necessary to avoid a stagnation in the growth of the certified organic area.


Figure 2: Organic area, 2020
(% share of total utilised agricultural area)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar), (apro_cpsh1)


Organic farming in the EU regions

The extent of organic farming varies considerably across EU regions (see Map 1). The latest reference year for regional data on organic farming from the Farm structure survey is 2016.

In the Salzburg region of Austria about one half (52 %) of the total utilised agricultural area used for organic farming in 2016, the highest share among EU's regions. There were a further seven regions where organic farming accounted for upwards of one quarter of total utilised agricultural area: Severozápad in Czechia (30 %), Norra Mellansverige in Sweden and Calabria in Italy (both 29 %), Mellersta Norrland in Sweden (28 %), Burgenland in Austria (27 %), Sicilia in Italy (26 %) and Moravskoslezsko in Czechia (25 %).


Map 1: Share of organic area in utilised agricultural area (UAA), by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
(% of total UAA)
Source: Eurostat (ef_lus_main)


Compared with 2013, the largest increases of organic area in UAA were in Calabria in Italy and Salzburg in Austria (each +11 percentage points (p.p.)), closely followed by Sicilia in Italy and Région de Bruxelles-Capitale in Belgium (each +9 p.p.), as well as Åland in Finland (+8 p.p.).

Organic production

Sweden had the largest shares of organic production of cereals and fresh vegetables in 2020

Figure 3 shows the organic production of cereals (excluding rice)[6] (hereafter referred to as 'cereals') as a percentage of the total cereals production. In 2020, organic production of cereals accounted for 7.1 % of the total cereals production in Sweden and 6.1 % in Estonia, followed by Italy with 5.8 %.


Figure 3: Share of organic cereals production in total cereals production, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (org_croppro), (apro_cpsh1)


Sweden also had the largest share of organic fresh vegetable[7] production in the total production (17.8 %), followed by Germany (10.4 %) and Italy (8.3 %) (see Figure 4). In the remaining EU Member States[8], the share of organic production for vegetables ranged from 0.05 % in Malta to 5.7 % in the Netherlands.


Figure 4: Share of organic fresh vegetables production in total fresh vegetables production, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (org_croppro), (apro_cpsh1)



Arable land represented almost one half of the EU's total organic agricultural area in 2020

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

The area of organic arable land was 6.8 million hectares in 2020, the equivalent of 46 % of the EU's total organic agricultural area. Organic pastures and meadows (mostly used for grazing organic livestock) accounted for a further 42 %, with organic permanent crops accounting for the rest.

In 11 EU Member States, organic arable land crops accounted for more than one half of their total organic agricultural area, whilst in 13 Member States organic pastures and meadows covered more than one half of their total organic agricultural area (Figure 5). Organic arable crops accounted for the vast majority of the organic agricultural areas of Finland (99.2 %), Denmark (82.8 %) and Sweden (77.2 %). In Ireland (89.0 %), Czechia (81.9 %) and Slovenia (80.5 %) organic pastures and meadows dominated.


Figure 5: Organic arable land crops, permanent grassland (pastures and meadows) and permanent crops, 2020
(% of total organic area - fully converted and under conversion)
Source: Eurostat (org_cropar)


In most EU Member States, organic permanent crops accounted for the lowest share of these three main land use categories in the organic area (in 16 EU Member States it was less than 5 % of the organic area) (Figure 5). In 2020, organic permanent crops accounted for between 5 % and 20 % in Slovenia, France, Poland, Greece and Croatia, while in Portugal, Bulgaria, Italy and Spain the share was over 20 %. Cyprus and Malta had the highest shares, with 47.6 % and 38.8 % respectively.


4.6 million organic bovine animals

Increasing numbers of bovines, sheep and goats are reared using organic methods. As an example within the EU herd of 76.5 million bovine animals in 2020, 4.6 million were bovines being reared using organic methods.

There tend to be higher rates of organic grazing livestock than for other livestock. For example, just over one third (36 %) of sheep and goats in both Latvia and Austria were raised according to organic farming methods. Likewise, just under one third (30.3 %) of bovine animals in Greece were organic. Austria had the highest share of organic dairy cows (22.0 %) followed by Greece (21.8 %) and Sweden (18.8 %). However, rates were much lower for pigs, the highest share being in Denmark (3.4 %).

Figure 6: Share of organic livestock in all livestock, by countries with the highest shares, 2020
(% of number of heads)
Source: Eurostat (org_lstspec), (apro_mt_lscatl), (apro_mt_lspig), (apro_mt_lsgoat) and (apro_mt_lssheep)


Fully organic farms

Agricultural land managed by fully organic farms

The annual statistics presented above are available only as aggregated values and do not specify on which type of holding the organic area is located. Ideally, the entire holding should be managed in compliance with the requirements that apply to organic production[9]. The reality is different, and there are a significant number of farms with mixed organic and non-organic[10] production in the EU. Data from the Farm structure survey can be used to further describe the situation. The latest available reference year is 2016.
The share of UAA in 2016 managed by farms with only organic area was 4.2 % (see Figure 7). Farms with some organic area (i.e. farms with both non-organic and organic area) managed 3.4 % of the total UAA, while farms with only non-organic area managed the remaining 92.4 %. The terms 'only organic', 'some organic' and 'non-organic' are explained under the heading 'Terminology used' in the section 'Data sources'.

Figure 7: Utilised agricultural area (UAA) managed by holdings with ONLY organic area, SOME organic area and NON-organic area, EU, 2016
(% of total utilised agricultural area)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


At country level, about 60 % of fully organic farms within the EU were located in either France, Italy or Austria in 2016 (Table 2). Fully organic farms managed above one million hectares of UAA in Germany, France and Italy, respectively. The highest numbers of farms with both organic and non-organic area were reported in Poland (17 500) and Spain (13 610). While Spain and France reported the highest number of hectares of UAA on farms without organic area, Romania had the highest number of farms with non-organic area, which is very likely due to the fact that Romania has a large number of small farms.

Table 2: Distribution of agricultural holdings and utilised agricultural area (UAA) for holdings with ONLY organic area, SOME organic area and NON-organic area, by country, 2016
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


The majority of organic farms were fully organic in 14 EU Member States

Figure 8 shows the farms that have all their UAA under organic management ('only organic' farms) as a share of all farms with any organic area ('only organic' and 'some organic'), per EU Member State[11]. This share ranges from 98.3 % in Czechia to 10.8 % in Ireland. This share is moreover above 50 % in Czechia, Austria, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, France, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Spain and Bulgaria.

Figure 8: Share of holdings with ONLY and SOME organic area, by country, 2016
(% of total holdings with organic area)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


On the farms that have both organic land and other land, the average share of organic area in the total farm area varies from 86.8 % in Finland to 22.0 % in Bulgaria (Figure 9). In 14 EU Member States, the average organic area share on these farms was above 50 %.

Figure 9: Share of the area which is organic on farms that have both organic and non-organic area, by country, 2016
(% of utilised agricultural area for holdings with some organic area)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


Estimating the economic value of organic production

Comparing the standard output (SO) of farms with only organic area and non-organic area (see terminology here) gives insight into differences between the monetary value of their production. [12] There are however certain methodological considerations, further explained below, and the comparison should be interpreted with care.

The ratio of standard output per annual work unit (AWU) of farm labour force (Figure 10) increases together with the farm size, for both only organic and non-organic farms. However, for farms below 20 ha, the ratio is greater for only organic farms than for non-organic ones. The ratio then turns in favour of non-organic farms as farm size exceeds 20 ha. In total, the ratio is slightly higher for organic farms because there are more holdings below 20 ha than when the size exceeds that threshold.

Figure 10: Ratio of standard output (SO) in Euro per annual work unit (AWU) for holdings with ONLY organic area and NON-organic area by size class, EU, 2016
(SO in Euro per AWU of farm labour force)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


The ratio of standard output per hectare of utilised agricultural area (UAA), on the other hand, decreases as farms become larger (Figure 11). Here the ratio is again greater for only organic farms below 20 ha, then greater for non-organic farms as size classes become larger.

Figure 11: Ratio of standard output (SO) per utilised agricultural area (UAA) for holdings with ONLY organic area and NON-organic area by size class, EU, 2016
(SO in Euro per UAA)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


Some methodological considerations need to be taken into account when looking at these figures. Firstly, the standard output (SO) is calculated by region, by reference period and by product. There are not different standard outputs calculated between farms of different size classes or between organic and non-organic production – specific SO coefficients are not collected for such categories and they would use the same SO coefficient. Since the standard output does not take into account possible differences in monetary value between size classes or between organic and non-organic production, other indicators would need to be developed to have more precise ways of comparing production value between only organic and non-organic farms.

Secondly, Figures 10 and 11 show the total standard output by size class, all products combined, and do not demonstrate which products contribute to the SO. It could be, for example, that the SO of non-organic farms comes mainly from crops while the SO of organic farms comes mainly from pastures.

As Figures 12 and 13 show, there are large differences between countries in the ratio of SO per annual work unit and SO per utilised agricultural area. The ratios for only organic farms are highest in Denmark and in the Netherlands. Values are above the EU-average in both ratios also for Belgium, Germany, France and Italy.

Figure 12: Ratio of standard output (SO) in Euro per annual work unit (AWU) for holdings with ONLY organic area and NON-organic area, by country, 2016
(SO in Euro per AWU of farm labour force)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


Figure 13: Ratio of standard output (SO) in Euro per utilised agricultural area (UAA) for holdings with ONLY organic area and NON-organic area, by country, 2016
(SO in Euro per UAA)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


Organic farm managers tend to be younger

A comparison of the age and sex of farm managers on holdings with or without organic area (Figure 14) shows that managers of farms with only or some organic area are generally younger than managers of non-organic farms (see terminology about only -, some -, and non-organic area here).

For non-organic farms, the share of managers increases with increasing age class. Indeed, more than one in five managers (22.8 %) is between 45 and 54, one in four (25.1 %) is between 55 and 64 and one in three (33.3 %) is over 65 years of age.

For farm holdings with only or some organic area, the largest share of managers is found in the age class 45 and 54 (29.7 %). A similar share of managers on organic farms are in the age class 55 to 64 (24.1 %) as on non-organic farms. In sharp contrast to non-organic farms, only 13.5 % of organic farm managers are over 65 years of age. The share of organic farm managers under 40 years of age (21.0 %) is twice that of non-organic farms (10.5 %).

The share of female managers is somewhat larger on non-organic farms. Indeed, 28.8 % of farms with non-organic area have female managers, while this figure is 24.0 % for farms with only or some organic area. In contrast, male managers represent a higher share for farms with only or some organic area (76.0 %) than for farms with non-organic area (71.2 %).

Figure 14 shows the detailed breakdown of managers by sex and age class, as a share of the total number of managers on non-organic farms and of the total number of managers on farms with only or some organic area, respectively.

Figure 14: Age and sex of farm managers of holdings with ONLY and SOME organic area and NON-organic area, EU, 2016
(% of farm category)
Source: Eurostat (Farm structure survey, 2016)


Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The statistical information presented in this publication is drawn from the Eurostat database, available at the Eurostat website. Data used in this article includes unpublished data.

Organic farming statistics

Annual data collection. Data are provided by the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia on the basis of a harmonised questionnaire. Data in this annual collection originate 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 have been collected since the 2000 Census.

The data collection under FSS and the annual collection of organic farming statistics are not fully comparable because of methodological differences. In this article the data are used separately and are not comparing the two different collections.

Terminology used in this article

  • Fully organic farm/farm with only organic area: a farm with agricultural land that is exclusively 'certified organic' or 'under conversion to organic'.
  • Partially organic farm/farm with some organic area: a farm with agricultural land certified and/or under conversion to organic, and conventional agricultural land on same holding.
  • Non-organic farm/farm with non-organic area: a farm which has no production in accordance to Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008.

Livestock statistics

The Livestock survey data are 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 are 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 2020.

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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 (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)
Farm structure (ef)
Main farm indicators by NUTS 2 regions (ef_mainfarm)
Farm structure – 2008 legislation (from 2005 onwards) (ef_main)
Agricultural production (apro)
Crops (apro_crop)
Crop production (apro_cp)
Crop production in EU standard humidity (from 2000 onwards) (apro_cpsh)
Crop production in EU standard humidity (apro_cpsh1)
Animal production (apro_anip)
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)



Questionnaires used for data collection
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Notes

  1. Data for EU, Germany, Austria and Switzerland on organic area are not separated into area 'under conversion' and 'certified organic' due to lack of data. Only total organic area is reported.
  2. For plants and plant products to be certified 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.
  3. Total UAA (main area) from the annual crop statistics table apro_cpsh1 is used as denominator.
  4. 2020 organic data for Austria is based on 2019 figures
  5. Data for EU, Germany, Austria and Switzerland on organic area are not separated into area 'under conversion' and 'certified organic' due to lack of data. Only total organic area is reported.
  6. Cereals (excluding rice) refers to the code C1000 (from the code list CROPS). According to the annual crops statistics handbook (2020 edition), it includes all cereals, excluding rice, harvested dry for grain, regardless of the use.
  7. Fresh vegetables refers to the code V0000 (from the code list CROPS). According to the annual crops statistics handbook (2020 edition), it includes all brassicas, leafy and stalked vegetables, vegetables cultivated for fruit, root, tuber and bulb vegetables, fresh pulses and other vegetables harvested fresh (not dry).
  8. Data not available for Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Austria and Portugal.
  9. Article 9.2 of Regulation (EU) No 2018/848 on organic production and labelling of organic products.
  10. In this article, 'non-organic' means that the land is not certified organic or under conversion to organic farming, under the rules of the legal framework regulating organic farming. The land could be managed in a sustainable way but outside of the framework of organic production controls.
  11. Excluding Malta and Luxembourg to protect confidentiality due to the low number of organic farms.
  12. For Figures 10 to 13, farms with UAA below 2 ha are not included. This is because there are differences in how countries collect data about the smallest size class (see this article for further information). In some countries, farms below 2 ha are included in the utilised agricultural area (UAA) even when they are not used for agricultural production, but instead mainly for personal subsistence (as kitchen gardens). It is therefore difficult to make conclusions on the monetary value of farms below 2 ha as only part of the sample has the purpose of agricultural production. For this reason farms below 2 ha are excluded from the comparison.