Organic market in France grows by 10 %
29.07.2015 by Kai Kreuzer
There is strong demand for organic food in France and the market is continually growing. In 2014, turnover grew by 10 % compared with 2013 and amounted to five billion euros (Germany 7.8 billion euros). Per capita expenditure in France was 75 euros and the equivalent figure in Germany was 95 euros. Germany’s western neighbour has been catching up rapidly and the big differences that we used to see are a thing of the past. Almost nine out of ten consumers now buy organics at least occasionally, with six out of ten buying an organic product once a month. In order to meet this demand more and more farmers are continuing to convert to organic production. The semi-state Agence Bio reports that the 1.1 million hectare mark was passed last year, although the growth in expansion was only 4 %.
Graphic: Development of sales in euros in the different sales channels in France from 1999 to 2014
The number of organic farms has risen by 4 % and reached 26,500 and the number of organic processors and retailers increased in 2014 to around 13,000 companies, 3 % more than in the previous year. The initial data for 2015 indicate that this trend is continuing unabated: from 1 January to17 May, there were 1,659 new producers, a rise of 16 % compared with the same period in 2014.
This significant dynamic in the agricultural sector has a direct impact on the number of people employed – approximately 100,000 full-time equivalents. Organic farms alone account for 66,000 jobs in the rural regions of France.
The annual organic action weeks – Printemps Bio – in the first two weeks of June are evidence of the vitality of the sector. People across the whole of France are invited to hundreds of events where they can get information on the benefits of organic farming and an opportunity to taste products for themselves. This year, the French were introduced to the new campaign, financed by the EU – La Bio, le bon calcul – that gives consumers tips on a balanced and sustainable diet
The number of organic farmers and retailers rose last year to 39,400 – growth of 4 %. The proportion of organically managed land in France is 4.1 % compared with 6.5 % in Germany and, as a proportion of all farms, organic farms have a share of 5.6 % (Germany: 8.4 %). Since organic farming is more labour-intensive than conventional farming, it employs 7 % of the workforce in agriculture. As stated by Agence Bio, organic faming generates more work with its diversity of crops, the greater input in converting to organic and engaging in direct marketing – all of which means it operates with 60 % more labour than conventional farming.
(Graphic by Agence Bio: The market share of the different sales channels in France)
Rising demand for organic catering
To organic turnover of 4.83 billion euros (+ 10 %) achieved by the retail trade we can add the 191 million euros (+11 %) generated by canteens and other large-scale catering facilities. In surveys, 87 % of people in France said they would like to see organic catering in schools. 76 % are in favour of organic food in hospitals and 73 % at work and in facilities for senior citizens. This explains why 2.7 % of purchases by large scale kitchens in the social sector are for organic food. In 2008 the figure was only 0.6 %. When organic food is on the agenda of an institution, it accounts for 13 % of its expenditure. 65 % of these catering kitchens use organic products at least once a month, 39 % at least once a week and 15 % every day. The number of schools, kindergartens and hospitals using organic every day has risen by a factor of three since 2009.
If we consider the proportion of organic products in the various crops, we find pulses are the main crop with 23 %, followed by fruit with 14.7 % and spices and medicinal herbs with 13.2 %. In the case of wine, organic production is still below a tenth, since the share of organic grapes grown in France is only 8.4 %. And the proportion of land devoted to organic cereals and arable crops is a mere 1.9 %.
In the animal husbandry sector, we find organic methods mainly in beekeeping (12.6 % of hives) and in egg production (8 % of hens). Organic production is concentrated in five regions (see the graphic at the top) that account for over half of the organic land in France: the Pyrenees region (Midi-Pyrénées) has 145,409 ha, the Loire region south of Paris (Pays de la Loire) 115,570 ha, Languedoc-Roussillon west of Marseilles 100,789 ha, the Rhône-Alpes region, east of Avignon 96,331 ha and Provence/Côte d’Azur 93,184 ha.
The conclusion of Agence Bio – Germany doesn’t have a comparable institution – is that markets as a whole in France are in the process of structural growth. With average growth of 10 % a year, the organic market expanded from 1999 to 2005, and growth accelerated again after this period until a rate of 20 % was recorded between 2012 and 2014.
Whereas the market share of organic products in the food sector as a whole is 2.5 %, in particular segments turnover is far above the average: 20 % and nearly 12 % in the case of eggs and milk. Market share in the case of the most popular 14 kinds of fruit and vegetables (with the exception of citrus fruit) is 7 %. The sale of organic products for consumption at home and in the catering industry rose sharply in 2014 by almost half a billion euros (466 million) and came to a total of 5 billion euros. There was especially strong demand for fruit and vegetables in the specialist trade and direct from farms, for milk and dairy products in the conventional food trade and for wine, meat and sausage products from artisan producers and farms. Artisan production predominates mainly in the case of organic wine, meat, bread and flour.
France has in recent years made a big effort to reduce its high level of imports and the result is that 76 % of organic goods are now produced in France itself. About half of imports consist of exotic fruit and products available only on a small scale in France.
Sales of organic products have developed in all commercial channels. Specialist organic chains experienced the biggest growth in turnover (12.6 %), which resulted in their market share rising to 28 %, whereas independent specialist wholefood stores increased their growth by only 6.4 % and achieved a market share of 7 %. Thus the specialist trade as a whole has a market share of 35 % compared with the conventional trade’s 46 %. Farmers marketing their products direct also raised their sales by 11.5 % that pushed their market share up to 13 %. Artisan food processors (bakers, butchers) have a market share of 5 %. In summary: the proportion of organic marketing by small and medium size enterprises (54 %) is still considerably higher than the sales of the large corporations.
Graphics by Agence Bio: distribution channels and product groups in France 2014