The EU organic food market

Key facts and figures

EU continues to be a pioneer in organic agriculture and production, with a large number of organic producers (around 260,000). Italy is the country who leads the way with 46,000 organic producers, followed by Spain with 30,000, and Poland with 26,000. In general, the organic farms in EU are bigger in size than conventional farms. This could be due to the fact that the organic sector accounts for a higher proportion of holdings with extensive livestock production based on large grazing areas. Another reason could be that organic farmers need larger holdings to assure a normal income because of the higher production costs.

Retail market features

From 2012 to 2013 there was an increase by 6% of the overall growth rate of the organic market in Europe, rising up to €22.2 billion.

With €7.6 billion, Germany is the largest market in the EU, followed by France with €4.4 billion, the United Kingdom with €2.1 billion and Italy with €2 billion.

The per-head consumption of organic products in the EU is higher than in other parts of the world. The highest per head consumption in 2013 was reached in Denmark (€164), Luxembourg (€157), Austria (€127 in 2011), Sweden (€107) and Germany (€93). However, the fact that the costs of living differs from country to country must be taken under consideration.

There is different demand in certain organic products than others, for example fruit and vegetables now have shares of around one fifth of many national organic markets. In addition, animal products in northern Europe, especially milk and dairy products, have an important share of all organic products. Despite the fact that organic animal production still remains limited, meat and meat products are very successful and account for around 10% of the organic market in Belgium, Netherlands, Finland and France. Other products like wine (and other beverages), bread and bakery products have an important place in the organic consumption, but are not as high in demand as the other organic products mentioned above.

Organic certification

Processors and traders must comply with EU requirements regarding organic products labelling. Control checks must be made at every stage of the organic chain. This means a full check of every operator–farmer, processor, trader, importer or exporter, at least once a year, or more often, on the basis of risk assessment.

The following information like names of the producer, processor or distributor, who last handled the item, the name or code number of the national certification authority and the EU control authority, should be printed on the organic products.

In 2012, the European Court of Auditors suggested in its special report that the competent authorities should reinforce their supervisory role over control bodies, particularly by promoting harmonisation in the definition of infringements, irregularities and corresponding sanctions.

Imports and exports of organic food products

The EU regulates both the import and export of organic food. Organic products are imported from third countries (non-EU) whose rules on organic production and control are equivalent to the EU’s. Currently, those countries are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Tunisia, Switzerland and the USA.  The EU has secured recognition of EU organic rules in several important export markets including Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Canada and the USA.

More information: