Organic agriculture in 2009

Vincent Samborski, Luc Van Bellegem (VLAM)

April 2010

The organic food market seems to be relatively resistant to the economic crisis. Organic products in Belgium represented a 1.5% share of the total food market in 2009. In 2008 this was only 1.3%. The organic area in Flanders, which today amounts to 3,659 hectares or 0.6% of the total agricultural area, has increased by 5% compared to 2008. Only 8 organic farms closed in 2009 and 21 new producers started, bringing the total number to 242. Some 150 Flemish farmers showed an interest in organic production by contacting the contact point ‘Bio zoekt Boer’. This is clear from the annual report on organic agriculture in Flanders, which is already in its fifth edition.

The increase in the organic area mainly takes place for organic fruit (+44%), which today accounts for 389 ha. There is an increase for both apples and pears and small fruit. Grassland and arboriculture remains the largest sector, with 1,419 ha, before arable farming (756 ha), ground cover (670 ha) and vegetables (424 ha). The increased number of plots that are being converted, from 366 ha to 597 ha, indicates that there is still growth potential.

In the animal sector there is an increase in the number of organic laying hens (+67%), but the number of organic goats and sheep has dropped (-38%). In organic livestock the number of poultry (233,804) is by far the highest, followed by sheep and goats (4,780), cattle (2,554) and pigs (2,098).

The trend towards diversification is confirmed by the growing number of producers who also start engaging in activities such as processing, repackaging and/or sales. 38 producers (16%) are also active as processors and packers. In addition, organic businesses can also consider a scaling-up strategy. This allows existing producers to take the opportunity to produce more according to their customers’ demand.

The organic sector keeps growing despite the economic crisis. Stable prices and a loyal, conscientious clientele are the main factors that have contributed to this. 17% of Belgians buy organic products at least once every 10 days. This group accounts for 80% of all organic spending. In absolute numbers well-off pensioners and well-off families with children are the most important customers. With 2.6%, singles under 40 represent the largest market share. Consumer spending on organic products in Belgium has risen by 15%, reaching 350 million Euros. This growth can be explained by a wider range of organic products and an increase in penetration and purchase frequency. Especially organic vegetables are very popular. Half of the people buying organic products occasionally buy fresh vegetables, followed by dairy products (30%) and fruit (28%).

Public spending for the organic sector in 2009 amounted to 3.5 million Euros, thus remaining at the same level as in 2008. However, a shift can be observed in the resources employed. Resources for promotion dropped to a share of 8% in the total expenditure, whereas resources dedicated to research and the sector organisation Bioforum increased to 24%. The drop in resources dedicated to promotion is the result of the end of the European promotion campaign. The amount of support paid in 2009 (campaign year 2008) dropped by 6% and totalled 656,181 Euros.

Original version:



Samborski V. & Van Bellegem L. (2010)
De biologische landbouw in 2009
Departement Landbouw en Visserij, afdeling Monitoring en Studie, Brussel.



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