Of the total global land (1.5 billion hectares), about 11% is under cultivation. 2015 figures published by FiBL put the global organic agriculture area under cultivation at 50.9 million (FiBL, 2015).
Most of the organic producers are in developing countries. FiBL 2017 Survey puts the total number of producers in the world at 2.4 million. The studies reveal that the actual area under organic farming is much more than the area certified as organic.
Organic food consumption is concentrated in countries where consumers have high purchasing power like North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc.
Farmers in the US do not find it profitable to shift to organic crops from traditional high-yielding genetically modified crops.
Organic farms also do not need cash for buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Most small farmers do not hire labor for farming. The major farming cost is seed, fertilizer, and pesticides. In organic farms, the farmer does not need to buy either seed, fertilizer, or pesticides. Organic farming for this category of a farmer is a profitable venture.
The certification process is cumbersome and requires detailed documentation. Compliance with the exacting standards of regulators and certifiers is difficult to achieve. This is especially true for less developed regions of Asia and Africa, where the bulk of the organic farmers reside. Farmers here largely come from underprivileged and poorer sections of society, with many being partially or completely illiterate. These people find it cost-ineffective to go in for a cumbersome organic certification process.
The major cost for organic farms is obtaining external certification for the crop. The cost is often too high and beyond the reach of such farms.
However, if we look at it from an economic standpoint, organic farming after certification does not yield higher returns for the farmer. Most organic farmers are poor. Just like their richer counterparts in the US, they do not find it financially attractive. The poor get into organic farming when they receive a subsidy from the government.
As far as ethics is concerned, for the poor, it is food in the stomach that matters; ethics is for the rich.
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