The green revolution of the 1960s, which ended the world food shortages, created the opportunity for the organic agriculture market to flourish in the 1980s. Its emergence is based on a logic that cannot be rejected by anyone. Organic agriculture started due to the health and environmental problems caused by chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticide used in classical agriculture, unfortunately lags behind classical agriculture in terms of yield.

As can be seen in the graph[1], organic wheat yield is only 40% of the yield in conventional agriculture in some countries. When the comparison is made on annual (grass) and perennial (trees) basis, it is observed that the difference decreases in perennials. In the comparison of legume-others, it can be said that the yield difference decreases in legumes, although not statistically. In the comparison of species, the difference was found to be the least in fruits, less in oil and vegetables, and more in root crops such as potatoes due to the depth of roots.

The main reason for the low yields per unit area in organic agriculture compared to classical agriculture is that genotypes and varieties that provide maximum yield in limited nutrient media have not been developed yet. The condition of organic agriculture with organic seeds which is also included in the directives of organic agriculture (Açıkgöz N., and Ilker E. 2006 Cereal breeding strategies for organic and low-external-input crop production systems, Paper presented at Joint Organic Congress, Odense, Denmark, May 30-31, 2006), organic-classical yield difference does not seem to be closed unless provided.

The organic plant industry demands a higher price for its products. It can be observed that the price difference exceeds twice that of some products. This means that organic products will be consumed only by the masses with high income levels. In other words, the low income strata do not exist in the organic product market. Organic farming, including Turkey, is supported by many countries. While 1000 ₺ per hectare is given in Turkey, Germany gives 10 percent additional premium to classical agricultural support. However, due to the fact that no difference could be observed in organic-classical products in terms of nutritional values[2], there has been hesitation in organic supports. As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom has stopped spending the funds it has allocated[3].

In spite of all this, in 2017, expenditures on organic food approached 100 billion dollars. This is quite striking since data of 1999 was 11 billion dollars. However consumption is concentrated in prosperous countries: 40 billion dollars in the US, 37 billion dollars in the EU (France 10 billion dollars, Germany 8 billion dollars). Meanwhile the total value of the world food market in 2015 was 5 trillion dollars.

While the area allocated to organic agriculture is 0.9 percent of the total agricultural area in the USA, this figure is three times more in the EU: 2.9 percent. Some countries show really interesting figures in the proportion of organic land on agricultural land: Austria 22 percent, Estonia 19 percent and Sweden 18 percent. There is a large difference in the number of farmers engaged in organic farming: while they are 400,000 in the EU and only several thousand in the United States.

Between 2000 and 2016, per capita consumption of organic products in Europe increased fourfold. In addition to demand, production support was also effective in this increase. According to 2016 data, Europe consumes an average of 60 euros of organic food per year. Based on the fact that 6.4 percent of the EU’s agriculture and environmental budget is allocated to organic agriculture, organic food consumption should be expected to increase further in the EU. This rate increases even more in some countries. For example, it reaches 13.2 percent in Denmark.

The organic products sector which has a price of 150 percent higher than conventional products will surely have many problems. For this reason, the certification bodies have to constantly set new standards. Many issues, such as bio-labeling, monitoring of pesticide – fertilizer residues, setting thresholds, force these organizations and their upper organs to be alert with new products. If import-export is involved in all of this, it becomes clear that the business will not be easy. “Mafia ties were found in Italy related to wheat imports from Romania that had been labelled as organic, the Financial Times reported. Another example of fraud is 40 tonnes of German strawberries labelled as organic, which were found to contain 25 pesticides, German media outlet Taz reported this month”[4].

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/rica/pdf/FEB4_Organic_farming_final_web.pdf
[2] http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/09/organic-food-not-proven-healthier-or-safer-study-finds/#.VR-ztPmsWSo
[3] http://www.freshplaza.com/article/124455/UK-Dont-waste-your-money-on-organic-food
[4] https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/organic-farming-improved-but-still-flaws-with-traceability-eu-auditors-find/

About İsmail Uğural

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