OrganicTargets4EU

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OrganicTargets4EU has choosen eight focus countries from EU (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary and Romania). The country profiles allow insights into the sector development and country specific and shared factors behind this development along a shared structure of presentations based on figures and data about:

  • sector development trends seen since 1985 (production) or 2002 (sales) based on time series
  • agricultural production structure and market dynamics
  • key events in policy, market and farming community specific to the country behind a) area and b) retail sales growth, stagnation, or even recession
  • agricultural policy and support (policy schemes and esp. national action plans)
  • structure, opportunities but also limitations of the national Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) for organic agriculture (R&I, education, extension)
  • a summary of the country specific key drivers, lock-ins and barriers

The subpages of the focus countries are based on the following reports in OrganicTargets4EU:

> Report 1.1: Assessment of the Knowledge and Innovation Systems for Organic Agriculture, Aquaculture and Value Chain Actors

> Report 1.2: (soon to be finalized)

> Report 1.3: Synthesis of key drivers and lock-ins for organic sector development

Visit the pages of each focus country:

Overview of organic share of farmland in the eight focus countries in 2021:

Focus countries materials

Below you find summaries of the most important conclusions from the three reports (report 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3)

Summary of report 1.1:
Assessment of the Knowledge and Innovation Systems for Organic Agriculture, Aquaculture and Value Chain Actors

Knowledge exchange between practitioners, research and policy is an established principle of all practice-oriented disciplines. In agriculture, such an approach of strengthening a knowledge-based network of individuals and organisations involved in generating, sharing, and applying agricultural knowledge and innovations is defined as Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS). Its development and support have been embedded in Strategic Plans of the Common Agricultural Policies (CAP SPs) for 2021-2027. A well developed and functioning AKIS is important to reach the targets set in the European Union’s new strategies, such as European Green Deal, the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, and the Biodiversity Strategy.

Although the Member States already stated their approaches in the National CAP SPs and in National Operational Programmes, the implementation methods and paths to reach these goals are still in question. The knowledge and innovation systems for organic will certainly play a key role for the achievement of the EU targets relating to organic farming. OrganicTargets4EU has examined the knowledge and innovation systems in seven focus countries for organic agriculture (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania), three for organic aquaculture (Germany, Greece and Italy) and eight for organic processing and retail (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania).

Report 1.1 describes the current state of play and the future actions to be taken to effectively upscale the knowledge and innovation systems in these countries. It provides information on organic provisions and actors, their role as knowledge brokers and the information exchange infrastructure. It also attempts to draw a comprehensive picture of the new capacities needed for knowledge transfer as a basis for the further development of organic agriculture and aquaculture in Europe.

The AKIS working definition used by the project to guide data collection and analysis in Organic Targets4EU goes as follows: “The Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) can be defined as a system that links people and organisations to promote mutual learning, to generate, share and utilise agriculture-related technology, knowledge, and information within a country or a region. Components of an AKIS are diverse actors from the private, public and non-profit sectors relating to agriculture, it may include actors such as farmers, farm workers, agricultural educators, researchers, non-academic experts, public and independent private advisors, supply chain actors, and other actors in the agricultural sector” (EU SCAR 2013).

The Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) has become a common term used at the national level when referring to the specific organisational and institutional arrangements to develop the agricultural sector. It is also used as a crucial concept for designing policies promoting innovation for sustainable agricultural development. AKIS is widely used in European policy documents, in the global literature on agricultural extension and it is adopted by international institutions (e.g., OECD, World Bank) (Sutherland et al., 2023).

The term “AKIS” refers to the network of individuals and organisations involved in generating, sharing, and applying agricultural knowledge and innovation. The CAP for the period 2021-2027 places increased importance on the embedded concept of AKIS. This involves building on the existing advisory services within the framework of national and cross-country levels of the CAP financial and policy structure. The aim is to establish a transparent network that facilitates the rapid flow of up-to-date knowledge and information among all stakeholders in the agricultural sector at national as well as European level.

While the F2F targets provide a framework for boosting AKIS structures, there is a lack of knowledge about how such provisions are implemented in practice.

Comprehensive knowledge about the organisational structure and functions of AKIS for organic in EU countries is lacking. OrganicTargets4EU fills this gap by analysing the organic knowledge and innovation systems in eight selected EU focus countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania. Organic aquaculture knowledge exchange and supporting systems are analysed in Germany, Greece and Italy.

The following key actions are identified:

  • For organic agriculture the most important actions to be taken are the establishment of a systematic policy framework at national level in support of AKIS for organic, the provision of funding and capacities for research, knowledge creation and exchange among actors in AKIS and the food supply chain.
  • For organic aquaculture, an institutional start-up mechanism is needed to support this relatively young sector. This includes the development of a clear vision for the sector supported by all value value chain actors, which can stand as a basis to the sectoral strategies, action plans and funding systems.
  • For organic processing and retailing, and more generally for a successful organic market development, it emerges the need for independent, qualified, and affordable support mechanisms. This refers to several levels: access to already existing knowledge and experts; involvement of public policy institutions facilitating support; research institutions to foster innovation; consolidation of cooperation among organisations, actors involved and regional clusters. This is especially important in countries with a less-developed support system.

Summary of report 1.2:
Assessment of agricultural and aquaculture policy responses to the Farm-to-Fork Strategy’s organic targets (soon to be finalized)

Summary of report 1.3:
Synthesis of key drivers and lock-ins for organic sector development

This report provides a foundation by presenting an assessment of the key drivers of change and lock-ins shaping organic sector development. Based on this assessment, the OrganicTargets4EU will establish a multi-stakeholder process to generate a set of possible scenarios to help develop appropriate and effective policy and business strategies to achieve the organic F2F targets. The key insights build on a thorough analysis of the eight focus country experiences and different stages of organic sector development (‘above’, ‘below’ or ‘just EU average’. In the project, seven focus countries for agriculture (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania) and three for aquaculture (Germany, Greece and Italy) were analysed. Additionally, drawing on insights from all EU-27 Member States, plus Switzerland and Norway, provided a basis for a scenario analysis.

This report endeavours to provide a thorough understanding of the diverse factors that drive or hinder development of organic sector in the EU countries. An institutional and multi-level approach is applied to the three relevant domains – farming community, agricultural policy, and food market – in the analysis of key lessons gained from literature and practical experience in the Member States.

In principle and with the Farm-2-Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity Strategies as well as under the Common Agricultural Policy/Strategic Plans, the EU offers a common legal framework and policy support for the development of the organic sector in all Member States. However, the level of ambition, precision and (financial) support within Member States varies. On the one hand, there are early adopters of national organic action plans with clear sector targets, on the other hand we also have countries that have action plans in place only since 2023. Most national organic action plans are not focused on organic aquaculture. Building on a literature review, report 1.3 provides an overview of key drivers of and lock-ins in the development of the organic sector in the EU Member States. Approaching organic farming and aquaculture as organised around key institutional domains (farming community, policy, market) the following key factors appear to be relevant:

  • Individual farmers: i) Organic farmers’ characteristics (age, education etc.), ii) farmers’ individual drivers (motivation, values, identity or risk perception and peer pressure) iii) farmers’ systemic drivers (e.g. regional effects, peer-networks, access to support, education, markets, inputs, regulatory constraints or policy reliability).
  • Farming community: i) Role of organic farming associations and certification and possible alternatives; ii) Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation (AKIS): availability of extension services, education as well as research and development; iii) prevailing farming discourses.
  • Agricultural Policy: i) Organic policy identity (e.g., policy framework & commitment to organic), ii) Policy action and support (e.g. for supply and demand, regulations / standards, action plans / national strategies, accessibility EU funding, availability/level of support payments for farms and farming community, policy support across regions, attractiveness of alternative agri-environmental programmes).
  • Food market: i) Development of organic food market (e.g. of supply chains, involvement of retailers, international trade); ii) Consumers personal and systemic drivers (e.g., sociodemographic characteristics, attitudes & believes, willingness to buy, availability and price of organic and alternative products, consumer awareness and information, including on labels and their trustworthiness, peer pressures/social norms).
  • Cooperation and coordination between actors: i) in supply chains, ii) in policy, iii) power relations.
  • Surrounding factors: i) state (public procurement, campaigns), ii) market (esp. conventional); iii) society at large (GDP, Population /urbanisation, advocacy groups outside organic, public discourse/mass media attention)

The factors were empirically enriched by elaborating on country profiles of seven focus countries from the EU (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania). The country profiles allow insights into sector development and country specific and shared factors behind this development along a shared structure of presentations based on figures and data about: i) sector development trends seen since 1985 (production) or 2002 (sales) based on time series; ii) agricultural production structure and market dynamics; iii) key events in policy, market and farming community specific to the country behind a) area and b) retail sales growth, stagnation, or even recession; iv) agricultural policy and support (policy schemes and esp. national action plans); v) structure, opportunities but also limitations of the national Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) for organic agriculture (R&I, education, extension), vi) a summary of the country specific key drivers, lock-ins and barriers.

The key lessons are:

  • Context matters: Numerous factors are highly context-dependent and hard to generalise
  • Supporting systems in farming community, policy, markets are interdependent: They need to be equally developed and solid interrelations established
  • Support payments are overestimated as triggers: Many more factors are relevant, including perceived peer pressure, perceived risks, perceived feasibility to convert as well as private factors for re-conversion or drop out
  • Values and identity shape organic sector development: E.g. images of ‘good’ farming or products valued by consumers
  • Conventional farming offers opportunities: E.g. addressing problems of conventional agri-food farming at system and individual levels
  • Knowledge and capacity building are key: From formal advisory and training systems and organic farming institutions, to informal networks and peer groups

Key levers based on the country experience are furthermore:

  • Commitment by political and market actors is key. e.g. continuity, commitment and clarity in policy measures and support
  • Combining a supply-push with a demand-pull model at different levels and along the whole value chain
  • Well-functioning Knowledge and Innovation systems (AKIS) that fully integrates organic farming into mainstream agricultural extension and advisory services, e.g. regular and substantive research and development funds and private actor engagement.

For aquaculture, a sector is still in its infancy but with impressive recent growth, the development of the sector also requires working on both the demand and supply side, and beyond just incentives-based approaches. There are essential specificities of the sector that need to be considered: E.g. that organic fish products do not attract consumption in ways known for vegetable or meat and that aquaculture sector is very heterogenous, why certain enabling and limiting factors may only concern specific species’, ecological regions or the specific phase of development that the country is in. The unavailability of organic fish feed adequately designed for the nutritional needs of different species as well as the unavailability of organic certified juveniles, for instance, hinder the development of the organic aquaculture in a way not seen in agriculture. The high bureaucratic burden on producers for certification as well as inconsistent and inflexible EU regulation add to the situation. Organic aquaculture has a generally lower ‘standing’ in the organic movement and experiences high pressure from conventional producers. Significant gaps persist in terms of broad policy commitment and support at both the EU and Member States levels, including providing monetary incentives (e.g., eco-premiums for farmers and subsidized prices for consumers), regulatory simplifications, targeted marketing strategies, and well-equipped research funds to support technical solutions and better data sources as to address the pertaining data gaps and inconsistencies.

Key recommendations for organic sector development

  • Programmatic approach to organic: Considering multiple factors from a system perspective, an active market-development policy strategy is suggested in which a policy mix of instruments is applied to increase both the supply of and demand for organic food products, explicitly also beyond monetary incentives (e.g. regulatory simplifications, targeted marketing strategies, including through public procurement and innovative and effective media campaigns, and well-equipped funds for research)
  • Context specific approach: Against the EU-wide target of achieving 25% of agricultural land under organic by 2030, country targets need to reflect the different points of departure, relevance and capabilities. Critical for reaching the EU target are the developments in the six large agricultural countries: Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Poland and Romania, which account for two thirds of the EU agricultural area and more than 50% of the organic area.
  • More priority on AKIS: Considering the very high number of farmers needed to convert in near term, capacity building and development needs to accelerate considerably. More public funding is required for AKIS, specifically for the extra efforts, including on digitalization, needed for capacity building ‘at scale’ as for filling persistent knowledge and data gaps, for instance, in organic aquaculture.

Future-proof approaches:

In light of the system-wide challenges and uncertainties of the future, new approaches to reduce risk perception or increasing economic feasibility need to be developed and tested.

  • Collaborative communication approach: Considering the role of trust-building and alliances with non-agricultural civil society or public actors for strengthening the unique selling point of organic, a differentiated communication strategy has to be adapted for different farming styles, that highlights the advantages of organic and the distinct management approach as a basis for new alliances and trust-building, rather than criticizing conventional which evokes rejection by conventional farmers.
  • Strengthening policy commitment to the organic idea: No systemic transformation without political will. In light of the limitations of markets to reflect the full ‘value’ of organic production, the state may take a more active role in supporting the provision of public goods through organic. Even the modest F2F targets require immediate reforms and political action targeted especially at AKIS, public procurement, marketing and awareness raising, and innovative demand side subsidies campaigning, and so forth.