Organic industry benefits from the dioxin scandal

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Organic industry benefits from the ongoing dioxin scandal

The dioxin scandal has significantly boosted the sale of organic products. The market share of domestic organic farmers is declining more and more and so they can only marginally benefit from the positive development.

While the sale of organic products in Germany rose by around 180 percent from 2000 to 2009, the organically farmed agricultural areas increased only moderately. According to the results of a study by the University of Bonn, the area share and the number of organically farmed farms only grew by around 75 percent in the same period. In order to meet demand, large quantities of organic products have been imported from abroad for years. However, the drastic increase in demand in the wake of the dioxin scandal has now led to the first supply bottlenecks appearing in numerous organic stores despite imported organic products. In addition, German producers of organic products are losing more and more market share due to the massive increase in imports in Germany.

Germany's largest sales market for organic products The study by the University of Bonn has shown that Germany is now the largest sales market in Europe for organic farming products. But domestic producers can hardly benefit from the development and there are also initial bottlenecks in the small organic shops. Owners such as Claudia Prehn from Frohnhausen, for example, report that even with organic wholesale, the desired supply is not always guaranteed: "I am rationed by wholesale - there is hardly anything else left in view of the exorbitant demand." The dioxin scandal triggered a real surge in demand for eggs, which the producers cannot satisfy with the current production. “The chickens don't suddenly lay eggs anymore,” emphasized Elke Remiorsch from Steele, who also owns a health food store.

Local producers hardly benefit from the organic trend Agricultural scientists Ulrich Köpke, Daniel Neuhoff and Paul Martin Küpper come to the conclusion in a study commissioned by the Greens in the Bundestag that organic products are not only due to the current development losing more and more market share, but this has been a trend that has been evident for years. The massive loss of market share "is particularly evident in the image-defining segment, fruit and vegetables", the experts explain. Because "regardless of whether it's apples, strawberries or tomatoes", the agricultural scientists report that the market share fell continuously over the period examined. In addition to fruit and vegetables, organically produced grain and animal feed must also be imported from abroad, so that the added value of organic food is increasingly shifting abroad. Eastern Europe in particular, where the domestic demand for organic products is only low, but agricultural areas are available in abundance, is benefiting from the current development, according to the agricultural scientists.

Regional products as a healthy alternative In view of the results of the study carried out on behalf of her party, the Green Member of the German Bundestag, Cornelia Behm, criticized that for imported organic products, "after long transports (...) organic is often no longer organic", for example if Greenhouse gas emissions from trucks and planes are taken into account. Behm emphasized that the current development was not wanted by consumers. The loss of the market share of domestic producers and the steadily increasing import volumes speak for an expansion of domestic organic production as well as the increased desire of consumers for safe food, explained Behm. "If you want healthy food, you should primarily use regional products, because the fewer middlemen, the better the traceability," emphasized the Green MP.

Funding for organic agriculture has been systematically reduced The supply and demand for organic products in Germany are developing so drastically, according to agricultural scientists Ulrich Köpke, Daniel Neuhoff and Paul Martin Küpper, to a large extent due to the political course taken since 2005. According to the experts, when the grand coalition (CDU / SPD) took office and later under the Christian-liberal federal government, support for organic farming in Germany was systematically reduced. For example, the subsidy for the conversion of conventional farms to organic agriculture was cut by around eleven percent on average between 2004 and 2009, the agricultural scientists report. "Politicians no longer set priorities and incentives here" and at the same time the Federal Government is concentrating on export promotion of conventional products such as dairy products for the Middle East or cheap pork for the (South) East Asian region.

If the dioxin scandal was the initial spark for a permanently changed consumer behavior, the organic shops are facing rosy times in any case. Many think about the origin and quality of the food for the first time on the occasion of the current events and "experience that they can exercise power through their purchase decision, that they can have a say in how the environment is dealt with," emphasized the organic food shop owner Prehn. But here, too, politicians are urged to make improvements, for example to promote organic farming, in order to significantly improve the supply of home-produced organic products in the long term. However, it remains to be seen how long reason will prevail over consumers. Because, unlike the French, for example, German consumers are still dominated by the idea that "avarice is cool" - also in relation to eating habits. However, anyone who only ever buys the cheapest products should not be surprised if scandals like the current dioxin discoveries keep appearing in the tough price war behind it. The decision of numerous German citizens to switch to organic eggs after the dioxin scandal is a step in the right direction, but there is a risk of returning to old habits as soon as the scandal is over. (fp)

Also read:
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Dioxin in pork is not a health hazard

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