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COVID-19 forces cancellation of Organic Grower Summit 2020 

COVID-19 forces cancellation of Organic Grower Summit 2020 

 

The 2020 Organic Grower Summit (OGS) has been cancelled due to COVID-19. The event that brings together organic growers and producers with supply chain partners and service providers was scheduled to take place on December 9th-10th in Monterey California.

Tonya Antle, executive vice president of the Organic Produce Network, said, “Unfortunately, based on the ongoing monitoring of health advisories, and the current resurgence of COVID-19, we have determined in order to protect the health, safety, and well-being of all Organic Grower Summit attendees that we cancel this year’s event. We look forward to hosting OGS 2021, next December in Monterey.”

The fourth annual OGS was slated to feature an exhibition trade show floor showcasing a wide range of technology, equipment, soil amendment and related supply chain partners connecting with organic farmers, growers and producers. Additionally, two days of information and education on plant and soil health, ag technology and opportunities related to organic growing were on tap for OGS 2020.

“We are so proud of how our industry has reacted during this unprecedented time and look forward to coming together next year. We are looking at putting together one virtual session featuring leaders of the organic growing community that will be broadcast in December 2020, and will have more information in the weeks ahead,” said Antle.

Photo: Organiz Grower

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Six-fold rise in US organic blueberry sales in past decade

Record exports of Chilean organic blueberries
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

Sales of organic blueberries in the US have rocketed over the past 10 years, with volumes increasing six-fold, from around 6 million kilos per year in 2010 to over 40 million kilos in 2019. Over the same period, prices have remained relatively stable, which means the market has become an extremely lucrative one. Average prices of organic blueberries tend to be around 50% higher than for conventional blueberries. However, premiums vary between different origins and at different times. According to USDA data, organic blueberries from Argentina and Uruguay cost up to 200% more than conventional berries in 2017, but the premium has diminished somewhat in the past two years. Indeed, the premiums paid for organic blueberries have been falling in most origins in recent times as supplies of organic fruit increase. This means the global blueberry market is becoming an ever-more competitive place with tighter margins. It will be interesting to see how the market is affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic: will consumer demand increase as health concerns play a greater role in driving demand, or will the economic fallout lead to a shift away from premium fruit?

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Australia’s organic farming receives funding boost

Australia’s organic farming receives funding boost © Woolworths
© Woolworths

 

Woolworths Organic Growth Fund has awarded $1 million in grants and interest-free loans to four organic farms across Australia. The funding enables the producers to upgrade production systems and develop expansion plans, ensuring that they remain sustainable into the future. 

The four recipients in this second funding round are Gingin Organics, N&A Group, Biofarms Australia and Pairingi Farms, which grow a wide range of fruit and vegetable varieties in Western Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania. The $30 million Fund was established in 2018, and has committed to a five-year partnership with Heritage Bank to help Australian growers meet the increasing consumer demand for organic fruit and vegetables.

Woolworths Head of Produce, Paul Turner, said, “We’re seeing double digit growth in customer demand for organic fruit and vegetables, and believe the trend will only continue over coming years. We’re particularly interested in working with conventional growers who are looking to diversify crops and convert to organic production.

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Coalition files lawsuit to prevent soilless agriculture from receiving organic certification

Coalition files lawsuit to prevent soilless agriculture from receiving organic certification © Réussir Fruits et Légumes

© Réussir Fruits et Légumes

 

The US Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders challenging the US Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic. According to Planetwatch, the lawsuit contends that hydroponic operations violate organic standards because they fail to build healthy soils and asks the court to stop the USDA from allowing hydroponically-produced crops to be certified. The US is one of the few countries that will allow hydroponics to be certified organic. Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries all ban hydroponic vegetable production to be labelled organic. 

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the body assigned by Congress to advise the USDA, has repeatedly asked the USDA to ban organic certification of hydroponics. The NOSB recommended in 2010 that hydroponics be prohibited from organic certification. The USDA continues to ignore that recommendation. In January 2019, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition asking the USDA to ban hydroponics from organic certification. The USDA denied the request that same year.

The lawsuit claims that denying the petition violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Organic Foods Production Act, which requires farmers to build soil fertility to obtain organic certification. Hydroponic crops are grown without soil using water-based nutrient solutions. Synthetic salts are the most common nutrients used in hydroponics, and most of them are not allowed in products certified organic.

“Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers and consumers believe that the Organic label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil. USDA’s loophole for corporate hydroponics to be sold under the Organic label guts the very essence of Organic.”

The basis of organic agriculture is to feed the soil, not the plant. Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm told Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont: “Organic farming is based on enhancing and cultivating the wonderful balance of the biological systems in the soil. It isn’t just about replacing chemical fertilizers with natural fertilizers.”

One of the objections to hydroponics is that it relies heavily on fertilisers. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic states that hydroponics relies on large volumes of soluble fertilisers with little nutrient cycling. Commercial hydroponic growers will rarely reveal the fertilisers they use, according to the Texas Organic Research Center. Another objection is that hydroponics use chemicals, which organic producers are prohibited from using.

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Sales of organic produce in US surge by 20%

Maggie McNeil, Organic Trade Association - Sales of organic produce in US surge by 20%
Maggie McNeil, Organic Trade Association ©  Twitter

 

Sales of organic produce in the US were up over 20% in spring 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had “dramatic consequences for the organic sector” according to data published by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The US organic market grew by almost 5% in 2019, reaching US$18bn, with millennials and the younger generations the main drivers of this growth in demand. However, according to Maggie McNeil of the OTA, the outlook is far from clear for the sector. The whole of the US economy has taken a battering from the fallout of the pandemic, which has led to less purchasing power for households. This might translate into more price-conscious consumers who are unwilling to fork out more for more costly organic products. However, the pandemic also appears to have made consumers  more health-conscious. This may lead them to shifting purchases towards more healthy options like organic fresh produce.

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70% of French bought organics during confinement

70% of French bought organics during confinement © Eurofresh Distribution

© Eurofresh Distribution

 

More French consumers began buying organic products during the Covid-19 quarantine. In fact, during the lockdown, 7 in 10 consumers bought organics, 8% of whom were new to the world of organics. These are the findings of a study published by the Bio Agency, which also reported that consumption was up overall of organics, especially amongst young people (18 to 24 years old), who consumed 11% more (compared to 6% of all buyers). While most sales of organics were in hypermarkets (57%), direct sales also played a key role, with 22% purchased from farms, local platforms or Amapa (French agroecological consumer groups). These direct sales systems are particularly successful in rural areas, where 37% of inhabitants use these channels. Specialty bio stores and proximity stores account for 26% and 24% of organic sales, respectively. Sales of organic products using car pick-up services at supermarkets are up 17% in this period, while online orders (excluding pick-up services) increased 7%.

The report also notes that the current pandemic has raised awareness of organics among consumers between the ages of 50 and 64, of whom 54% claim to have purchased organic produce to support French producers in this sector. Similarly, the growth of direct sales of organics can be attributed in part to their proximity and environmentally friendly production methods. Almost all of the newly converted organic consumers (90%) plan to continue promoting bio producers, citing among their reasons the fact that these products are better for health (59%), are of better quality (57%), and are more respectful of the environment (56%).

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Bright summer in store for Californian grapes

Bright summer in store for Californian grapes © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

California’s organic table grape harvest is expected to be decent this year, with steady volumes predicted throughout the season. With Mexico’s volume winding down quickly, organic production from the San Joaquin Valley is expected to begin by mid-July, resulting in promotable supplies of organic table grapes throughout the summer. Although it is not expected to a bumper year for Coachella grapes due to delays caused by weather issues, things are expected to pick up by July.  The unseasonably cool temperatures in March and April will lead to a longer and lighter season.  

Last year was very different, with huge volumes of both organic and conventional table grapes arriving from Mexico, especially in June, which caused very low prices for all table grapes. This has not been the case this year, with a strong end to the season expected.

On June 23, the National Specialty Crops Organic Summary noted that all three colours of organic table grapes from Coachella were in the $35 range for an 18-pound box.

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France’s organic producers rise to challenge

France’s organic producers rise to challenge
© Prince de Bretagne

 

Organic food sales in France have risen by as much as 40% for some retailers, which has put pressure on supplies. However, the challenge that this presents is not something to intimidate the organics sector. Brittany-based Prince de Bretagne has stressed its commitment to meeting its customers’ needs at home and abroad during the crisis, including for organics. As Fruitnet reports, the marketer provided an update on its organic spring range, with 55 tons of organic Primaline potatoes expected by the end of April and 617 tons of courgettes forecast for the season. The first organic artichokes are just becoming available, starting with Petit Violet and followed by Camus and Cardinal, while the bulk of the forecast 46 tons of rhubarb will be available in May.

May will also see the arrival of organic cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and a wide assortment of tomatoes, including vine, cocktail, Coeur de Pigeon, Saveurs d’Antan and heirloom varieties. Another newcomer for this year will be organic Oyster mushrooms, which along with shiitakes are expected to reach 11 tons for the season. Meanwhile, the first volumes of organic broccoli are expected for the end of May and early June.

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BioTropic GmbH supports organic farmers worldwide

BioTropic GmbH supports organic farmers worldwide

BioTropic GmbH is successfully supporting small growers to meet the EU-requirements for organic farming. That´s why during this year, several PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) projects of BioTropic have been co-financed by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “In a current PPP in Costa Rica, a massive production of organic curcuma and ginger will be improved by training local farmers,” said export manager Udo Bürk.

BioTropic has its own banana and mango ripening chambers in Duisburg, as well as commercial offices in Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, and its own production for tropical fruit in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Ivory Coast, all of them exceeding the principal quality standards, such as EU-organic, Demeter, Naturland, and Fair Trade.

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The 2020 California Organic Produce Summit cancelled due to pandemic

Organic Produce Summit to feature new consumer data and analysis

Scheduled for July 8-9 in Monterey, California, the much-awaited 2020 California Organic Produce Summit has been cancelled in light of the impact of COVID-19. In a press release, Susan Canales, conference president, said: “Based on the ongoing monitoring of health advisories and recent statements by the governor of California related to large gatherings, we have determined in order to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all Organic Produce Summit attendees, that we cancel this year’s event.” The next conference will take place on July 14-15, 2021, in Monterey.

The fifth annual summit was scheduled to feature 152 organic produce growers, shippers and processors exhibiting products to more than 250 retailers and buyers. Exhibitors, sponsors and attendees have the option of rolling over their participation in the show to the new 2021 date or requesting a refund.