France’s organic sector: a +27% increase in exports on 2015*

28-06-2016 légumes vertes
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France registers Europe’s second greatest growth rate in organic farming and the midterm future is looking bright.

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France’s domestic market in good shape

French organic goods are performing extremely well. Having seen unprecedented growth in 2015, at the start of 2016, France’s organic sector has continued to grow at a steady pace. In 2015, the organic market grew by 14.7% compared to 2014, and is now worth 6.76 billion euros, outperforming previous forecasts set at 5.5 billion (Source: Agence Bio). “We have witnessed a new spurt in recent months, perhaps driven by the climate change conference (COP 21) and the strong media coverage generated. The French market is among the strongest performers in Europe”, set out Didier Perreol, President of Agence Bio, a public interest group created in 2001 which offers a platform of exchange for industry professionals and organic-related authorities.

Everything looks set for the sector to continue its burgeoning course.  Indeed, in addition to strong demand, organic production is also breaking all records with more than 200 organic farms arriving on the scene every month. By the end of 2015, France boasted more than 28,884 organic farms, a 9% increase on 2014.  Together these farms occupy 1,375 million hectares of organic farmland, an increase of 23% on 2014. At the same time, the proportion of utilised agricultural area (UAA) allocated to organic farming surpassed the 5% mark for the very first time.

Further along the supply chain, the number of organic operators has seen a 5% increase, with 13,528 companies now involved in food processing, sales and import/exports. In total, there are 42,412 operators working in organic-related industries in France, which is an 8% increase on 2014.

Market demand is also booming. In 2015, retail sales of organic goods increased in all channels. “Short food supply chains and specialist retailers are particularly buoyant, and even more popular than supermarkets”, stipulates Didier Perreol.  Interestingly, direct sales increased by 20% on 2014, specialist organic retailers by 17%, and local retailers by 15%, all outperforming supermarkets (+11%).   The catering sector is also performing well (+18%) and playing its part in boosting the general good health of the sector. Since 2016, some 6 out of 10 catering operations in France offer a range of organic foods, compared to 46% in 2011 and only 4% before 2006.

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Exports: the future is organic

In keeping with the core values of organics, namely concern for the environment, 76% of organic produce consumed in France is “Made in France”. Sales of organic goods outside France were worth an estimated 435 million euros in 2015 compared to 381 million in 2014. “We have struggled with international sales for a considerable time, but companies are now starting to reap the rewards of their sustained efforts” explains Didier Perreol.  Wines essentially make up the bulk of exports (66%). Looking forward, this ratio should evolve, particularly for products such as bread.  Plantings of large-sale crops saw 2015’s greatest increase with a 33% uplift in additional allocated surface area compared to 2014.  By 2017, the French milling sector should be using 100% organic flour from France. French organic produce is also making ground in foreign markets, with exports seeing a 27% increase in 2015 compared to the previous year.  Organic wines are particularly affected by this boom, with a 26% growth in exports. The positive picture generated by these latest figures reflects the many years of hard work invested by the organic sector as a whole. “French organic goods have been on the rise for the last 4-5 years. A number of key French players attended Biofach in Germany, Europe’s largest trade fair devoted to organic goods, and the number has increased year on year since then”, analyses Didier Perreol, Agence Bio.  Being out there, networking and working together are all central to France’s success, not forgetting France’s “Made in France” label.  “Our partners abroad perceive France as an experienced country that knows how to innovate and create new recipes. When we go to China, Japan or even South Korea to win over new markets, France’s positive image counts for a lot.“ Maintaining a long term foothold in Asia will be one of the future challenges for the organic sector, together with breaking into Scandinavia and Germany. France’s greatest assets are biscuits, ready-meals, cereals and “pain des fleurs” in particular. “Introducing rye in bread format is a true success of France’s savoir-faire and innovation”.  For French companies within the organic sector, exports also form an integral part of corporate strategy, as they hope to take advantage of the current interest in vegan to build on already established growth.

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*(compared to 2014)