Germany has a long tradition of organic farming, though the organic land area accounts for only around 11% of the utilized agricultural area (UAA), which is just slightly above the EU average (FiBL, 2023). Organic agriculture has remarkably grown in Germany between 2001 and 2021, with the organic area increasing by 183%. Regarding its total value, the organic market is the largest in Europe, but Germany lags behind other countries in terms of share of retail sales (7% in 2021 compared to 13% in Denmark). Germany has a target of 30% organic area by 2030. The two main land use types in organic agriculture are arable land (47,6%) and permanent grasslands (50.8%) (EUROSTAT, 2023b). As seen in many other European countries, organic competes with other quality-related labels, traditional specialities, or geographical indications, which is described as a hampering factor for further market development.
KEY DRIVERS AND BARRIERS FOR THE ORGANIC SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
The political environment in Germany was supportive for organic sector development over the last two decades, both at Federal level and in most Länder. Regarding market development, specialised organic food stores as established system for food purchases are more recently loosing market relevance compared to supermarket (including those specialised on organic) and pharmacy chains (Darnhofer et al., 2019; Jahrl et al., 2016; Łuczka & Kalinowski, 2020; which adds to the recent market and area development. Still, there are numerous factors hindering sector development: On the one hand, the high level of fragmentation in the sector with multiple control bodies and associations result in patchy services and add to quite substantial variances in policy and extension service practices between different organisations and Länder. On the other hand, recent political lobbying against organic farming in combination with agroecological measures gaining ground as alternative for conventional agriculture undermine the political standing of organic despite the internal unity of organic farming associations. Whilst the German AKIS is considered one of the strongest in Europe, there are problems with fragmentation and knowledge exchange between regions and actors. Although the research landscape for organic farming in Germany is rich, research and educational organisations are not always sufficiently cooperating.
Organic farming is established and institutionalised on the policy level. There is a high variance of policy support across regions (“Länder”) in Germany, which is seen as an overall obstacle of organic farming development. The regional variance is also reflected in fragmented extension and advisory services. The research landscape for organic farming in Germany is evolved, but facing a lack of preparation of new knowledge for practice, as reported. Organic farming associations is more unified in Germany, compared to Italy and France. Germany experiences a firm commitment towards organic farming from the policy level, with a slow shift towards more agroecological measures in conventional agriculture happening in the last years. This positive development however resulted in some “Länder” in low differences between organic farming area payments and low input systems, which overall hampered the motivation for conversion to organic farming. The “modernisation of agriculture” discourse shaping conventional agriculture for decades is recently coming under pressure following protracted crises in agricultural markets with mainstream advocacy arguing or accepting for organic farming being a niche that can be profitable for farmers. Germany has had a focus on supply-push strategies for many years. Demand-pull strategies are in place, e.g., public procurement strategies, but several barriers are seen in the overall organic market development. In contrast to Austria and Denmark where large retailers have great market power and outreach, specialised grocery stores are a very important distribution point for organic foods in Germany. Experts from report an increased resistance and continuous lobbying against organic farming from different actors within farming system, especially agricultural policy as well as the scientific community.
AKIS in Germany
With a long tradition in organic farming, the provisions for organic in AKIS are also well established, particularly in relation to advice with offers from the organic sector organisations as well as public bodies, and a dedicated research programme since 2001. The main weakness relates to fragmentation and a lack of national coordination, particular regarding the link between knowledge creation, advice, vocational training and education for farmers and other organic operators. Whilst the German AKIS is considered one of the strongest in Europe, there are problems with fragmentation and not well functioning knowledge flows between regions and between actors.
Policy background of AKIS relevant to the organic sector
The AKIS system in Germany integrates a wide range of actors including regional (Bundesland) and federal public administrations, private industries, agricultural organisations and NGOs. While the federal government mainly plays a coordination role, responsibility for most AKIS activities lies with the 16 German regions. The Future Strategy for Organic Agriculture (ZÖL), first developed in 2017 and similar to a German Action Plan for organic farming, is currently being updated in consultation with the sector. Since 2001, there has been a federal R&D programmeme in the field of organic farming, the ’Bundesprogrammem Ökologischer Landbau’ (BÖL). This programmeme puts a great emphasis on knowledge exchange, but its funding has varied greatly over time. Similarly, EIP-AGRI is implemented in the whole country since 2014 (with regional differences in thematic focus and operation groups supported). Of more than 300 operation groups funded so far, about 16% address topics related to organic farming. The CAP SP does not specifically mention organic farming in the AKIS section, apart from the goal to improve networking among AKIS stakeholders, both between regions and internationally.
Knowledge creation, research and innovation
The governance, funding and implementation of public agricultural research is shared between the federal government and the regions. The Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL supported by the administrative body BLE) is responsible for the federal (departmental) research institutions and funding of research programmes as well as the implementation of a cross-cutting strategy for research and innovation. As part of research accompanying innovation, a network of different stakeholders in animal welfare has been set up, and a similar network is planned for organic farming. The regions are responsible for research in the universities and their own research stations. The federal research programme for organic farming BÖL is practice-oriented and focuses on knowledge exchange between research and practice. The calls for proposals consider the critical needs of the organic sector, although improvements are clearly possible. The BÖL projects are considered as important for knowledge transfer between research and practice. The EIP-AGRI measure of the CAP has been implemented across the country since 2014 (with regional differences in operational groups supported and thematic focus). Around 16% of the more than 300 operational groups funded so far have addressed topics relating to organic farming. The main actors in agricultural research are universities, federal and regional government research institutes, other non-university and private research institutes, and the Chambers of Agriculture. All these actors are involved to some extent in organic farming research. The most important knowledge centres are the federal public research institutes (e.g. Thünen Institute) and universities, although a few private institutions also play an important role, such as Naturland. The actors and themes are coordinated by the Deutsche Agrarforschungsallianz (DAFA). Its thematic forum on organic food and farming and the organic research strategy that has developed have been taken into account in the development of the German Organic Farming Action Plan 2023 (ZÖL). There are easily accessible information hubs for farmers and other stakeholders, such as Ökolandbau.de. Through the BÖL and EIP-AGRI programmemes, the transfer of knowledge between research and practice is considered effective. However, there are gaps in funding for research and innovation to meet the knowledge needs of the organic sector.
Education and training
Education and training are the domain of the regions, whilst the federal government has limited responsibility for professional education. The dual vocational training system combines farm-based training with regular attendance at vocational schools (Berufsschulen), but the provision for organic agriculture is not well developed. Advanced training takes place in the form of 1 or 2-year courses at technical colleges (Fachschulen) leading either to a certificate as “Meister” or as a technician (Techniker). There are also a few scattered technical colleges on organic agriculture (e.g.: Landshut, Weilheim and Kleve). Higher education in agriculture is offered by 22 universities and universities of applied sciences. There are targeted programmes with a clear focus on organic farming (e.g., the University of Kassel and the HNE Eberswalde), but most of the other universities offer such modules. The network of Organic Demonstration Farms is targeting farmers and the general public. Several players, both public and private, offer a range of short training courses related to organic farming and specific topics. This includes one-day orientation and two-day conversion seminars, research-based knowledge exchange (KE) events of the federal programme BÖL, and introductory courses for farmers provided by the farmers associations. The events support both formal and informal (e.g., peer-to-peer) learning and include publicly funded training offers.
Advice and consultancy
Providing advice for farmers in Germany is the responsibility of the regions, whereby public and private systems co-exist, funded either by CAP or other funding streams. In Central and Southern Germany, the main provision happens through public / governmental advisory services; in the North-West through Chambers of Agriculture and advisory rings; in the East mainly through private providers. The provision of organic advisory services uses broadly the same structures; but organic farmers organisations also provide advice. An evaluation for BMEL reported good availability for organic nationwide, but with a structural deficit in the East. The focus is often on technical issues. Connections with research exist but could be improved and there is a lack of researchers on preparing knowledge for practice and on training of advisors. Funding in the various structures may not be sufficient to cover needs in line with growth targets.
Unlike the development seen in agriculture, the organic aquaculture sector in Germany experienced a rather abrupt growth and only since 2018 after a decrease in the years 2014 and 2015, followed by strong growth in 2016 and a substantial drop in 2017. Ignoring the deviation in 2017, the rise in production in 2018 by more than 2000 % is still remarkable when considering the stagnation in the aquaculture sector in Germany more generally (EUMOFA, 2022). However, it is unclear what caused the fluctuations and if it rests in data inconsistencies. In 2020, 6,746 metric tons of organic aquaculture products were produced, ten times the amount produced in 2015 (621 metric tons). In 2020, already 23% of total aquaculture production in the country was organic (EUROSTAT, 2023a) which is a considerably higher share than what we have seen for organic farmland in Germany (10.2%). In 2012 Germany had 181 organic aquaculture producers, and just around 50 in 2020, most of them small scale. Unlike other countries and considering the general growth of the sector, Germany has experienced a considerable concentration.
Key drivers and barriers of aquaculture development in Germany
For Germany, several factors relate rather to market (demand) than production (supply) development. Competition and/or confusion with other labels (e.g. MSC, ASC, label rouge) is a relevant constraint for the growth of the German organic aquaculture. While a bigger proportion seems to rely on the ASC ecolabel for purchase decisions (Ankamah-Yeboah et al., 2019), the large number of existing labels causes confusion and distrust (Zander et al. 2018), referred to as a ‘label overkill’ or information overload effects (Janssen & Hamm, 2012; Altintzoglou et al., 2010). While this undermines the value of labels for consumer decisions (Verbeke et al., 2008), this effect may be counteracted by raising awareness about the qualities of organic farming practices (stocking density, limited use of antibiotics, no GMO, no hormones, environmental impact or animal welfare) associated with the organic label (Ankamah-Yeboah et al., 2017). In this regard, positive or neutral reporting about aquaculture in German print media (Feucht & Zander, 2017) might support awareness raising as to trigger a higher willingness to buy to a certain extent. Beyond that, especially the high costs of certification for farmers and the limited availability of German organic products compared to the international offer are identified as key constraining factors (EUMOFA, 2022b), among other things.
Knowledge and innovation systems
The German KIS landscape for organic aquaculture is complex and characterised by a lack of coordination and innovation. While self-organised platforms and approaches are currently making up for the deficiencies in the KIS for organic, more central coordination is needed considering the remarkable growth of the organic sector. So far, such a need to implement an effective knowledge and innovation system for organic aquaculture is not addressed by national policies.