Is there a shift to organic farming occurring?

There are only some parts of the world where farmers want to switch to organic farming. It is not correct to claim that farmers are switching to organic farming. Of the total global land (1.5 billion hectares), about 11% is under cultivation. 2015 figures published by FiBL put the international organic agriculture area under cultivation at 50.9 million (FiBL, 2015).

The largest area under organic food production in the world is Australia. It has 22.49 million hectares under organic agriculture. Argentina is the distant second with 3.07 million hectares, followed by the USA (2.03 million hectares). Two of the most populous countries in the world, China and India, have 1.61 and 1.18 million hectares under organic agriculture. (FiBL Survey, 2017)

Most of the organic producers are in developing countries. FiBL 2017 Survey puts the total number of producers worldwide at 2.4 million. India has the largest number (585,200), followed by Ethiopia (203,302) and Mexico (200,039). More producers do not mean that they produce the highest amounts of organic food.

The US is the largest market for organic food and food products. Its demand has been put at 24.3 billion Euros. Approximately 43% of the world’s revenues from organic food come from the US alone. Other major contributors are Germany 13%, France 8%, China, Canada, the UK, and Italy, constituting 4%. The European organic food market was estimated in 2013 at US $31 million (FiBL-IFOAM 2015).

From the above overview, it is clear that most organic food producers lie outside the major demand regions of the world. Further, organic food production is currently less than the available supply. Given that, the prices for organic food tend to be higher when compared to conventional food. Although, this is not universally true. The difference between traditional and organic products is near absent for some organic food products like citrus fruits.

Farmers will opt for organic agriculture only when that is financially more attractive. Organic farming is a purely economic decision in developing countries of Asia and Africa or developed Australia and New Zealand. Overall though, farmers do not find agriculture a lucrative activity. And this includes organic cultivation.

Additional reading:

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