The European Council has identified a “worrying” drop in demand for organic sales, stating that if the trend continues, funding for other environmental/climate interventions might need to be used.

This comes as data available on European production and consumption of organic food shows a growing trend during the 2010-2020 decade.

EU organic retail sales almost doubled in 2020 compared to 2015, and the area under organic farming grew by 41%.

In Ireland, over 4,000 farmers are now farming organically, including around 2,200 who entered conversion in January 2023.

Many of the new entrants came from the beef and sheep sectors on the western seaboard, attracted by an almost 50% increase in payments under the new scheme.

Over the lifespan of the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2023-2027, €256 million is to be injected into the organic sector in Ireland in a five-fold funding increase.

Organic sales

The most recent research data shows reduced consumption of organic products in Europe, according to the European Council.

Total imports of organic agri-food products in the EU have decreased from 2.87 million tonnes in 2021 to 2.73 million tonnes in 2022.

The council stated that growing inflation, as well as high food and energy prices, led to reduced sales of organic food products in many EU markets in 2023.

“Moreover, the energy crisis has been triggered by Russia’s unjustified aggression towards Ukraine.

“This has adjusted society’s attitude and capacity to afford organic food, as well as has aggravated food self-sufficiency issues,” the council stated.

It also mentioned how the gap between the selling price of organic versus conventionally grown agriculture produce is “shrinking” and that in some cases, organic farmers must sell their produce at the same price level as conventional farmers do.

“The above-described market trends fail to ensure sufficient level of motivation for farmers to carry on their organic farming practice, even when incentive payments are offered,” the council stated.

The council has called on the European Commission for the following:

  • To arrange a strategic discussion concerning the prospects and the support for organic farming, including on the future of organic food;
  • To ensure the appropriate monitoring on the changing consumption volumes;
  • To explore the possibilities for simplification in regulating an organic production and to make sure that new horizontal legislation is aligned with an existing organic regulation;
  • To show the flexibility in the process of amending CAP Strategic Plans, considering their current situation in organic farming development.

The EU target for 25% of organic farmland by 2030 remains unchanged.

The aim of this is to maintain productivity; increase soil fertility and biodiversity; and reduce the footprint of food production.