3:09 p.m., February 18, 2021
In the corona pandemic, consumers in the grocery trade heavily covered with organic products. In the lockdown and home office, more was cooked at home. Sales of fresh organic food (excluding bread and pastries) soared in 2020 compared to the previous year by 23 percent to 714 million euros, emerges from current surveys by AMA Marketing. Last year an average household spent over 190 euros on fresh organic products.
The organic share of fresh goods in Austrian food retailing has been climbing for years and reached a double-digit value for the first time in 2020 at 10 percent. “Corona could not stop the steady growth of organic products. On the contrary: people are now even more sensitive to the quality of food”said the managing director of AMA-Marketing, Michael Blass, on Thursday at an online press conference. “And in the Corona crisis, the desire for environmentally friendly, healthy organic food has once again increased significantly,” said the chairwoman of the Bio Austria organic farmers’ association, Gertraud Grabmann. There has also been a boom in the direct marketing of farmers, including the home delivery of organic boxes.
In organic farming, farmers do without easily soluble mineral fertilizers and chemical-synthetic sprays. In addition, there must be a varied crop rotation in arable farming and species-appropriate animal husbandry with exercise and pasture opportunities.
Local agriculture with around 24,500 organic farmers is considered an ecological pioneer. Worldwide, Austria ranks second behind Liechtenstein (41 percent) with an organic share of over 26 percent (677,000 hectares) of the total agricultural area. In contrast to some other European countries, there was only a slight increase in the number of organic farmers and the organic area in Austria in 2020 because there have been no new entries into organic funding since the end of 2018 and no changes from other funding measures since the end of 2019 more are possible. There will only be entry into organic funding with the new funding period of the Common European Agricultural Policy (GAP) in 2023.
The organic farmer representative Grabmann expects the number of farms and areas to stagnate in 2021/22. The demand for organic food will continue to rise, but it cannot be met locally. This could lead to a certain loss of added value for Austria in international competition, said the organic farmer representative. Grabmann calls for a continuous entry into the organic farmer promotion and further improvements in the current reform of the EU agricultural policy.
Grabmann was relatively satisfied with the producer prices for organic farmers. The price situation is only “unsatisfactory” for organic grain farmers. The big supermarket chains dominate the local organic market with their own brands “Ja! Natur” (Billa, Merkur), “Natur * pur” (Spar), “Zurück zum Ursprung” (Hofer) and “Ein good piece Heimat” (Lidl).
“A worldwide almost unique success story”
“The food retail trade made organic food great in Austria. This is an almost unique success story worldwide,” said AMA Marketing Director Blass. He hopes that the supermarkets will continue to “deal responsibly” with the organic issue and not start a price war as with conventional foods. Billa recently launched a second own organic brand, “Billa Bio”. The new organic house brand with currently 135 products mainly offers dry goods, fruit and vegetables from abroad as well as convenience products. The organic farmer representative does not expect any major changes for the industry with the new Billa own brand.
The world’s largest organic trade fair Biofach is currently only taking place digitally in Nuremberg from February 17th to 19th due to the corona pandemic. Again, numerous organic companies from Austria are exhibiting, but this time only in virtual form.