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EU-Mexico talks underway for agreement on organic trade

European Commission and Mexico to start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products

The European Commission and government of Mexico have started negotiations towards a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products.

A commission press release said both sides aim to “swiftly conclude” an agreement that would foster expansion of the market for organic farmers, reduce the burden for companies and supply more organic products for consumers.

Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture José Calzada and EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan met in Mexico City on February 10 to launch negotiations, “with a view to acknowledging the equivalence of each other’s organic legislation and control systems.” Hogan is visiting Mexico from 10 to 12 February 2016, accompanied by a delegation of 35 European businesses representing a wide range of the European Union’s agri-food sector.

According to the statement, organic farming is going through a period of expansion in Mexico. In 2014, the total area planted with organic crops amounted to 24.5 thousand ha, producing 104.4 thousand tons of organic products, valued at 1,062 million pesos. Tomatoes, coffee, strawberries and raspberries stand out as the leaders in value generation among organic crops.

In the EU, the organic sector has been rapidly developing in recent years, with a total area of 10.3 million ha cultivated as organic in 2014, up from 6.4 million ha in 2005. The EU market for organic products amounts to some 40% of the world market – second only to the US (43%).


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Peru a world leader in organic banana exports

Peru ranks second globally with its exports of organic bananas reaching US $73 million in the first half of last year

Peruvian banana exports totalled US $120 million in 2014, up 35% on the previous year, according to the Commission for the Promotion of Peruvian Exports and Tourism, PROMPERU. And organic bananas now account for 53% of all organic exports from Peru. The country has become the world’s second biggest exporter of organic bananas, logging trade worth US $73 million in the first half of 2015. Its main markets were the Netherlands with 42%, the US with 27% and Germany with 16%, followed by Belgium, Japan, Finland, South Korea, the UK, Canada and Chile. Shipments throughout the first half of 2015 were up 28% on the same period in 2014. Total certified organic production in Peru in 2014 covered 486,600 ha, around 7% of the total agricultural surface area. The supply mainly consists of bananas (26% growth), the most traded product, and mango (91%). The most important market for these products was the EU, which took 53% of total organic exports – shipped mainly to Holland (25%), Germany (15%), Belgium (6%) and Italy (3%) – followed by the US with a 33% share, as well as Canada, Estonia and Australia, and Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan.

Organic supply growing in value

In recent years, the global trend towards consumption of safe and healthy products has grown stronger. In keeping with this, over January– July, exports of Peruvian organic products reached US $110 million, which meant 7% growth on the same period in 2014, reports Eduardo Amorrortu, CEO of Exporters’ Association ADEX. In 2014, organic banana exports from Peru achieved turnover up 50% on 2013. Amorrortu highlighted a notable change in consumer patterns. “Today there are consumers willing to pay an additional price for these items, which is reason enough to develop and encourage special differentiation strategies.” He also added that opening up and accessing new markets is a dynamic process, driving stakeholders to continually enhance their competitive edge.


Peru flag map: CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

This article appeared on page 82 of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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Discover ‘Organic 3.0’ at Germany’s Biofach fair

The diversity of the global organic industry will be displayed by over 2,400 exhibitors from February 10-13 at Biofach, billed as the world's leading trade fair for organic food.

The diversity of the global organic industry will be displayed by over 2,400 exhibitors from February 10-13 at Biofach, billed as the world’s leading trade fair for organic food.

Being held at the Nuremberg Exhibition Centre in Germany, the fair will cover product-oriented and political topics, and the future of trade will be the focus of the two business and trading platforms.

The Biofach congress – the biggest organic congress in the world –  starts on Wednesday February 10 and runs throughout the exhibition in NCC Ost, NCC Mitte and hall 9. With some 100 presentations and panel discussions reaching more than 7,000 participants, it is a platform for knowledge transfer, information exchange, discussion and opinion forming.

This year the theme is Organic 3.0 – Acting for more organic! This is an umbrella for discussion of the future of the organic sector and need for credible and sustainable concepts to restructure the global agriculture and food industry.

Another highlight of Biofact is that it gathers the world’s most important innovations in trend and niche markets in one place. The 500m² Novelty Stand provides a chance to discover new products and creations from the organic sector, showing how good ideas, the best raw materials, ecological packaging concepts and creative design enhance the increasingly varied spectrum of organic products.

It is where voting will take place for the Best New Product Award 2016, the categories for which include fresh food, frozen food, grocery products: cooking & baking, grocery products: snacks & sweets, other grocery products, drinks, and non-food.

Meanwhile, young, aspiring start-ups will present their ideas at the Innovation made in Germany pavilion. which has sponsorship from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

For Germany’s specialist retailers, such as natural food stores and health food shops, the Fachhandelstreff, in stand 9-551 in hall 9, will be a magnet. Encompassing the Fachhandels Forum and the Fachhandels Club, it offers a wide-ranging programme of discussions tailored to be highly useful to this target group.

Biofach organisers say for some time now organic products have ceased to be in a niche and are instead working their way into the mainstream – presenting specialist stores with new challenges. The rising demand for organic products is being met by more and more retailers. For example, with Edeka having recently started to stock Alnatura products, the number of sales outlets offering this range alone has now doubled to 7,500 since the beginning of this year.

According to the German Federation of the Organic Food Industry (BÖLW), which is Biofach’s national supporting organisation and headquartered in Berlin, the income from the German organic market rose 4.8% to €7.9 billion in 2014. Specialist stores were the main beneficiaries, enjoying a 9% increase in revenue.

In the first half of 2015, German households spent 8.4% more on organic products compared to the same period in 2014, and surveys indicate that specialist stores saw an increase of 10.5%. By the end of 2015, Germany’s total revenue from organic products is expected to have exceeded €8 billion.

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UK’s organic market grows despite fall in food spending

There were sharp increases for some organic products, among them fresh fruit – up 6.4%.

Sales of organic products rose 4% in the UK in 2014, a year when food prices fell 1.9% and food spending 1.1%.

The Soil Association’s 2015 Organic Market Report also shows fresh fruit and vegetables and dairy products were the most popular organic purchases.

And amid the context of sliding non-organic sales, there were sharp increases for some organic products, among them fresh fruit – up 6.4%.

“Sales of organic vegetables fell by 2%, but in a context in which non-organic sales plummeted at five times this rate,” the association said in a press release.

There was also significant growth in organic supply into catering, (13.6%),

The association said the nutritional credentials of organic gained a big boost in July when landmark Newcastle University research showed organic crops including fruit and vegetables are up to 60% higher than non-organic research from.

Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning said said three years ago commentators were writing off the organic market in the UK.” Now, with a third year of steady growth, and against a falling overall food market, it’s clear that reports of organic food’s demise were premature to say the least,” she said.

“Now, even the discounters are beginning to stock organic ranges.”


Details of 2015 Organic Market Report:



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Opportunities in the EU for US exporters of organic produce

Screenshot 2015-02-12 at 11

The growing market for organic products in the EU offers opportunities for US exporters affecting various kinds of produce, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture says.

The USDA said while trade is generally determined mainly by quality, price and local availability and demand, opportunities for US exporters include:

  • Sweet potatoes: the market for sweet potatoes is growing. EU demand for potato varieties is up. The US is the best year round supplier of sweet potatoes at competitive prices.

  • Fresh vegetables like onions, broccoli and lettuce: especially the UK.

  • Fresh fruit: especially in those countries with no local availability, there is demand for a great variety of fresh fruit from the US. There is seasonal (October through March) demand for apples and pears in northwestern Europe. Demand in the same region is also strong for US citrus (grapefruit and minneola). There is year round demand for fresh, dried, sweetened cranberries and demand continues to grow. Growing demand for other fruits includes grapes, strawberries and cherries.

Trade in organic products between the US and the EU

The report says that from 2011 to 2014, the largest increase in US exports of organic produce to the EU occurred in fresh grapes and reached USD 4.7 million in 2014 (2011: USD 0.8 million). In 2014, the value of US organic grape exports to the EU exceeded the export value of organic apples which used to be the most important US organic export commodity in 2012 and 2013.

Other important US organic export products to the EU after grapes and apples include strawberries, blueberries, peppers, and cauliflowers.

In 2014, most US organic exports to the EU occurred during October (grapes and apples) and November (grapes).

US exports to the EU of organic products which are covered by HS codes (introduced in 2011) reached USD 12.3 million in 2014. This compares to an increase of 77 percent from 2011 to 2014, the USDA said.

us exports organic.png

us top importers eu.png

Figure 2. Top 10 EU countries with the highest organic sales USD per person, 2013 figures

Top 10 EU countries with the highest organic sales USD per person, 20.png


Top 10 largest organic markets in the EU, million USD, 2013 figures

Top 10 largest organic markets in the EU, million USD, 2013 figures.png


Read “Plenty of opportunities for U.S. organics in the EU market”

USDA Foreign Agricultral Service (FAS) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report



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Organic pear, avocado and apple imports increasing in the US



US imports of certified organic pears, avocados and apples are showing triple digit growth in value for the first ten months of this year, compared to the same period last year.

And organic garlic, non-greenhouse bell peppers and blueberries have notched up double digit gains.

Organic bananas and mangoes, however, are at both values and volumes less than half those of 2013. Nevertheless, bananas, followed by apples, avocados and mangoes, lead in total value imported among those organic fresh fruits and vegetables being tracked by the USDA.

The figures come from the selected organics section of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), which was updated this week with data to the end of October 2014.


Pears*: those entering US between April 1-June 30 inclusive

Avocados*: Hass avocados and others considered Hass-like, fresh or dried

Apples*: fresh, valued at more than 22 cents/kg

Bell peppers*: other than greenhouse, fresh or chilled

Mangoes*: entering US September 1–May 31, fresh

Mangoes **: entering US between June 1–August 31, fresh


US imports Jan-Oct 2014 for selected organic produce

Imported organic item

VALUE (in thousands of USD)


% Change in Value Jan-Oct 2014 vs same period 2013

% Change in Vol. Jan-Oct 2014 vs same period 2013






Apples Fr >22Cents/Kg





Avocado-Hslike Fr/Dr





Mangoes Fresh 9/1-5/31





Mangoes Fresh 6/1-8/31





Bell Peppers Fr Other





Pears Fresh (April 1-June 30)





Bell Peppers Greenhse





Cultiv Blueberries Fr





Pears Fresh Other Time












Partner Product Value (in thousands of US$) Qty (MT) % Change Value (Jan-Oct 2014 on Jan-Oct 2013) % Change Vol. (Jan-Oct 2014 on Jan-Oct 2013)
World Total Pears Fresh Other Time 2,926 3,026.3 -14 4
Argentina Pears Fresh Other Time 2,889 2,988.7 -12 9
Chile Pears Fresh Other Time 38 37.6 -67 -72
World Total Pears Fresh 4/1-6/30 8,524 7,521.3 228 242
Argentina Pears Fresh 4/1-6/30 8,361 7,409.9 227 245
Chile Pears Fresh 4/1-6/30 163 111.4 342 141


US IMPORTS OF FRESH ORGANIC APPLES (at price >22Cents/Kg) Jan–Oct 2014
Measurement units: Val 1,000 USD, Vol 42LBC
Partner Value Qty % Change in Value on same period in 2013 % Change in Vol. on same period in 2013
World Total 29,396 1,374,204.4 100 68
Chile 18,000 848,496.4 89 61
Argentina 8,627 353,417.6 259 237
New Zealand 2,079 150,790.0 5 -1
Canada 691 21,500.3 -11 -30

US imports of fresh organic cultiv. BLUEBERRIES Jan-Oct 2014
Partner Value in ‘000 US$ Qty in tons % change in value on Jan-Oct 2013 % change in quantity on Jan-Oct 2013
WORLD TOTAL 5,975 1,321.9 43 75
Chile 4,104 1,144.4 15 58
Argentina 1,852 172.5 384 712
South Africa 19 4.9


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US exporting more organic cherry tomatoes, grapefruit

biggest growth us exports organic

The top organic fruit and vegetable exports by the US so far this year are apples, lettuce, grapes, spinach and strawberries, according to data updated today by the USDA.

These are the products that lead in value for the ten months to this October, though the totals for apples and lettuce are down 22% and 11% respectively on the same period last year. In terms of the biggest growth relative to last year, cherry tomatoes, grapefruit, cauliflower, other tomatoes and celery are the top five items.

Organic item exported by US

Value in Thousands of US$

% Change in Value Jan-Oct 2014 compared to Jan-Oct 2013

Apples Fresh



Lettuce Not Head Fr/Ch



Grapes Fresh



Spinach Fr/Ch



Strawberries Fresh



Carrots Fr/Ch



Cauliflower Fr/Ch



Cult Blueberries Fresh



Pears Fresh



Broccoli Fr/Ch



(Fr/Ch = fresh or chilled)



US organic export

Unit of measurement

Volume Jan-Oct 2014

% Change in Vol Jan-Oct 2014 on Jan-Oct 2013

Apples Fresh




Potatoes Fr/Ch Xsd Oth




Cauliflower Fr/Ch




Lettuce Not Head Fr/Ch




Grapes Fresh




Carrots Fr/Ch




Onion Sets Fr/Ch




Pears Fresh




Celery Fr/Ch




Broccoli Fr/Ch




(Fr/Ch = fresh or chilled)



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Baby food pushes up organic sweet potato sales in US

Sandi Kronick, CEO of Eastern Carolina Organics, (left) with Triple J Produce Sales manager Kristi Hocutt

Young mothers and pregnant women helped give birth to the growing market for organic sweet potato in the United States, says Sandi Kronick, CEO of Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO).

While she jokes that “kale pays the bills”, Kronick said sweet potatoes are the next most important item for ECO in terms of both value and volume, followed closely by blueberries.

Based in Durham, North Carolina, the farmer- and employee-owned firm markets and distributes wholesale Carolina organic farm produce to retailers, restaurants and buying clubs along the US east coast, even reaching Canada in the north and as far south as Florida. Now ten-years-old, it expects turnover of US$4 million this year, up from $3.8 million last year – all from sales within North America and about a fifth from sweet potatoes.

Baby food has long provided major demand for sweet potato and Kronick said demand for the organic version has delivered greater demand for organic sweet potato. “A lot of organic sweet potato acres go to baby food,” she said. Even so, she said less than 5 percent of total sweet potato production in the US is currently organic.

Kronick said ECO is also seeing a lot of growth – with increases in value but not necessarily volumes – in greenhouse tomatoes, in particular, and in greenhouse cucumbers and lettuce.

Exports to the UK, France and the Netherlands

One of the about 100 farms that ECO works with is Triple J Produce, located in Sims, North Carolina, which predominantly grows sweet potatoes and has about 1,000 acres of conventional cultivation for this crop and 100 acres of organic.

Sales manager Kristi Hocutt said that despite the higher costs, such as due to non-chemical weed control, the company has been increasing its organic production “because customers have been asking for it.”

Triple J supplies stores including Whole Foods in the US and exports sweet potatoes to European countries including the UK, France and the Netherlands, mainly in 6kg and 18kg boxes.

Its own sweet potato production this year will be 800,000 bushels, along with an additional 400,000 from partner growers, of which 65,000 bushels will be organic. Its 2013 crop was 500,000 bushels, of which 38,000 were organic.


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Organic vegetables in the EU


European Commission preparing action plan to stimulate organic agriculture

Unprecedented growth has taken place in the EU organic market in the last decade and it now attracts annual turnover of about €20 billion. (DE: 6.6; FR: 3.8; UK: 1.9; IT: 1.7).

Nevertheless, vegetables represent a small part only – just 1.2% – of the EU’s organic crop area, with 110,955 ha out of a total 9.6 million ha in 2011.

Italy is the Member State with by far the largest area of organic vegetables (23,405 ha), followed by Germany with more than 18,000 ha, then France with 14,529 ha. The United Kingdom boasts 13,618 ha and Spain 11,483 ha.



13.6% of organic citrus crops in Italy, just 1.8% in Spain

Organic fruit crops cover 264,000 ha and account for just over a fifth of the main permanent organic crops with the biggest ones being olives and grapes.

The organic citrus sector has seen dynamic growth in the last 15 years in the EU though it is concentrated around just a few Member States: Italy, Greece, Spain and Cyprus.

The biggest citrus areas are in Italy (more than 21,900 ha) and Spain (around 5,856 ha in 2011 but increasing). Organic citrus represented 5.3% of the total citrus area in 2011 for the above-mentioned countries. In 2011, 13.6% of the total citrus area in Italy was organic compared to just 1.8 in Spain, the EU’s biggest citrus grower.



Market has quadrupled but control inadequate

Although the market has quadrupled in the last decade, EU production has not kept pace and the extra demand is met by imports.

There are also societal and consumer concerns not yet fully addressed, such as the sustainable use of energy and management of environmental impacts, animal welfare and pesticide residues.

Other issues include the myriad logos and shortcomings in the control system, such as with insufficient import inspection. Also, the production rules have been watered down and the risk of loss of consumer confidence is high.

New EU plan

As a result, the European Commission has now set three priorities:

– to increase competitiveness;

– to maintain and increase consumer confidence;

– to reinforce the external dimension of EU organic farming.

It allocated nearly €85 million for organic production under the 2014-2020 CAP budget.

Needed: centralised database, frauds made public

A centralised database for import certificates should be created. Documentary evidence could be a solution and exchange between the control actors should be increased. Fraudulent certificates should be published, a practice the U.S. Department of Agriculture already follows. Transparency could also be increased by using the name of the control body on labels instead of a code number and requiring accreditors to be trained at EU level.

More money is needed for promotion funds to attract consumers not currently buying organic products. The organic sector has done well so far but from now on the whole chain, from producer to retailer, needs to go a step further. More companies have to get involved and particularly big ones that can invest in research and development.




Read full report available free here on page 38 of issue 33 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine

Photo of ecologically grown vegetables by Elina Mark (via Wikimedia Commons)

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VI.P: a commitment to the environment

APPLE italy VIP bio (1)

The Italian leaders put forward a philosophy that goes above and beyond their organic line to become a significant benchmark, while Europe increases its production to 24,000 tons.
The Val Venosta Association of Horticultural Cooperatives, VI.P, has a characteristic integrated production system that is very environmentally friendly. This product line includes over 10 varieties of organic apples, most notably Golden Delicious (almost 50% of production), Gala and Pinova.
The 132 organic farmers in the cooperative comply with the EU’s Regulation 834/2007 governing organic production. Furthermore, they are all members of the German associations Bioland and/or Demeter, which regulate organic farming with more stringent guidelines than the above regulation. This is why Val Venosta’s organic produce exceeds European standards of quality, cultivated exclusively with natural techniques and organic fertilizers, with no synthetic anti-pest products, fertilizers or herbicides.  In addition, they use soil management methods with a low environmental impact to conserve and enhance soil fertility and plant resistance. All of this leads to more sustainable farming and more natural production.  
To ensure these methods are followed, Val Venosta’s organic apples are produced applying strict controls and a thorough traceability system. Part of the consortium is a partner to Bio mit Gesicht (Bio with a face), so every package can be marked with a code on demand that the consumer may use in the internet to find all the information about the apple, the farmer and their farm (
Val Venosta: sustainable production
In addition to implementing cultivation techniques and technologies that are environment ally friendly, all of Val Venosta’s apples are voluntarily subject to the EPD (Environmental Product Declaration), an internationally valid certification that verifies each of the stages in producing the apple so as to minimise CO2 emissions into the environment. One of the steps to reduce the environmental impact that affects the production phase is the installation of new photovoltaic systems on the cooperatives’ roofs that enable them to significantly reduce power consumption. This season, the area of ​​solar panels has increased to 60,000 m² with the capacity to produce 10.8 million kWh a year. This is a reduction of 5,700 tonnes of CO2—another example of VI.P’s work to minimize its environmental impact. MV