GE - PANUPS: Organic Opportunities
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Sent: 13 March 1999 02:25
Subject: PANUPS: Organic Opportunities
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
Opportunities for Organic Farmers Worldwide
March 12, 19999
Consumer demand for organically produced food is on the rise and
provides new market opportunities for farmers and businesses around the
world, according to a new report from the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). Typically, organic exports from developing countries
are sold at impressive premiums, often at prices 20% higher than
identical products produced on conventional farms. The report states
that, under the right circumstances, the market returns from organic
agriculture can potentially contribute to local food security by
increasing family incomes, and recommends an FAO-wide, cross-sectoral
program in organic agriculture.
In several developed countries organic agriculture already represents a
significant portion of the food system: 10% in Austria and 7.8% in
Switzerland. Other countries such as the U.S., France, Japan and
Singapore are experiencing growth rates in the organic industry that
exceed 20% annually.
Some developing countries such as Egypt have small domestic organic
markets and have begun to seize the lucrative export opportunities
presented by organic agriculture, FAO said. Some countries export
tropical fruits to the European baby- food industry, six African nations
export cotton to the European Community, Zimbabwe exports herbs to South
Africa, and China exports tea to the Netherlands and soybeans to Japan.
Entering the market in industrialized countries is not easy for organic
producers in developing countries, according to FAO. In most cases,
farmers seeking to sell products in developed countries must hire an
organic certification organization to inspect their farms annually and
confirm that they adhere to organic standards. These services can
sometimes be expensive, and few developing countries have certification
organizations within their borders, according to the report. Many
developing countries also lack the resources and training to participate
in international standard setting regarding acceptable inputs for
organic production and ingredients.
Farmers converting to organic production will probably initially
experience losses in yields, the report warned. In particular, "where
soil fertility is low and biological processes have been seriously
disrupted, it may take years to restore the ecosystem." However, there
are other short term benefits. Instead of using synthetic pesticides
which can kill beneficial organisms, create pest resistance, pollute
water and land, and poison farmers and their families, organic farmers
rely on natural pest controls to grow their crops.
FAO recommended that it would be most advantageous for farmers to
participate in locally-based, applied field research. Experience with
FAO-initiated Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Farmer Field Schools and
community forestry projects has shown that farmers, whether owners or
tenants, large or small, can practice good scientific methods if they
are given training and technical support.
To maintain consumer confidence in the integrity of organic products,
FAO recommends that countries promote their own organic certification
organizations and better enforce organic standards by "punishing those
who engage in fraudulent activities as well as undertaking systematic
tracking and measuring of fraud and its impact on the market."
The report concludes by stating: "FAO has the responsibility to give
organic agriculture a legitimate place within sustainable agriculture
programmes and assist member countries in their efforts to respond to
farmer and consumer demand in this sector. Organic agriculture may
contribute to the overall goals of sustainability."
According to the report, the FAO organic program should focus on
providing fora for discussions on organic production and trade;
facilitating research, extension and networking; and technical
assistance for developing skills, organic standards and certification
capacities. FAO should also develop pilot projects that explore and
promote organic agricultural techniques.
The FAO report, "Organic Agriculture" is available on the web at
Sources: UN FAO Press Release 99/3, "Organic Agriculture," Item 8 of the
Provisional Agenda, Committee on Agriculture, January 25-29, 1999.
Contact: UN FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy;
phone (39-06) 5705 3105; email Erwin.Northoff@FAO.org.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991
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