Over a two-year period, we collected data, studied examples of public support provided to organic agriculture in more than 80 countries and launched the results in a one-of-a kind Global Policy Toolkit. One of the many insights our research revealed is that having sound data is key to furthering the growth of the organic sector.
Good data is the foundation for the development of any national organic strategy. Precise figures on the number of operators allow policy makers to better plan the type and amount of support needed, to calculate the budget and expected coverage of their policy measures.
For those active in the market, date on the size and potential increase in market share can guide business decisions. Access to a directory of producers, processors, retailers etc. can prove helpful when looking for new suppliers but also to consumers interesting in buying organic.
Data tracking sector growth demonstrates the potential of organic agriculture and can help to attract investors, organic input manufacturers and other supporting businesses.
Data Collection and Dissemination as a Policy Measure
Compiling national data on the organic sector is a typical public good service that will benefit multiple stakeholders, including the government itself. Polices on data collection are suitable at all stages of sector development.
At the early stages, a study to roughly locate organic producers and have an idea of their production systems and existing market channels is enough to inform subsequent policies. When the organic sector is well developed and has significant trade volume, it is necessary to gather detailed production data and organic trade figures on a regular basis.
Putting Policy into Practice
Let’s look at what some regions and countries do to gather and share quality data.
The regulation on organic farming requires all EU member states to provide basic data on organic farming to Eurostat. With the exception of Chile, there is no other country or region in the world where data collection on organic farming is mandatory in the organic regulation.
The EU’s statistical office compiles for each country the number of organic operators, the organic crop areas and production, organic livestock and livestock production. Each Member State and some other European countries are asked to provide the data on an annual basis, using a harmonized questionnaire.
The data are usually based on data of the certification bodies, which are then compiled by the national authorities. Eurostat publishes the data on its website, in several searchable databases in English, French and German.
Retail sales data are mostly collected by private research companies and then shared within the private organic sectors of Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Only in Denmark and Sweden, is this data also collected by the national statistical offices. In Spain, an annual study on retail sales is commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The government co-funds the annual compilation of global organic statistics by FiBL. “The World of Organic Agriculture”, published annually by FiBL and IFOAM – Organics International, provides a global overview of organic farming statistics including area under organic management, specific information about land use in organic systems, numbers of farms and other operator types as well as selected market data.
Denmark has probably the best system for organic data collection in place for organic retail sales and international trade data. Since 2003, this data has been collected annually from companies by Statistics Denmark. For retail sales, per-product volumes and value are collected from supermarkets, which constitute approximately 90 % of all organic sales in Denmark. For imports and export, values are available by product and by country. A new feature is the data collection on catering sales data. All data are easily accessible in Danish and English via an online database at the Statistics Denmark website.
Here most countries have organic regulations and hence data on area, production, and in some cases livestock. There are some very good examples of collection systems for export data (Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru), which by far exceed the scope and quality of export data that are available from major organic markets such as Germany, where nothing is available. The strong focus on export data reflects the importance of organic exports for Latin America.
One of the best data collection systems in Latin America for area, livestock and export volume data, including exports by destination can be found in Argentina. Each March a comprehensive, consistently structured, detailed report is issued by SENASA, the authority in charge. The Ministry is currently financing the establishment of the Guía Orgánica (Organic Guide) interactive website in which consumers interested in organics can find organic points of sales, products, and product information.
CNCA, the National Certification and Accreditation Administration in China, is responsible for collecting, compiling and releasing national statistics on organic agriculture. Since 2005, collection efforts have continuously been enhanced. In 2014, a “White Book” on organic farming in China was published, giving access to the data (area, production, exports, imports, domestic market) and substantial background information. An English translation of the white book by the company “Organic and Beyond” has made the information internationally accessible. China is currently working to integrate the data for the international certifiers, thus making the picture more complete.
Several private and public institutions are engaged in the regular collection of data on organic agriculture. A wide range of production-related data as well as international trade data is available from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).