Stefan Hipp is managing partner of the organic baby food producer HiPP. HiPP has production sites in five European countries and sells its organic products all across the European Union.
Having studied agronomy, Stefan Hipp is an active organic farmer. In his deeply held belief of treating natural resources with care, Stefan Hipp follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Georg Hipp, who founded the company in 1932, and his father Claus Hipp. In order to strengthen the voice of organic trading and processing companies in the EU, Stefan Hipp serves as President of the Organic Processing and Trade Association (OPTA EU) since 2020.
Why was OPTA, the Organic Processing and Trade Association, founded in June 2017?
To engage actively with stakeholders at European level and to support the growth of the Organic sector. All our 28 members share the vision to advance the success story of organic food and farming and to deliver a better result for climate, biodiversity, soil, air and water.
What is your main goal as Association?
We believe that the organic food and farming industry plays a vital role in facilitating the transfer to a sustainable food system.
This requires an influential and efficient organic supply chain with active operators, who are the spindle between organic farmers and the organic market, between supply and demand.
Our main goal is to create a network of expertise in organic processing and trade and use the expertise and pragmatism of our members to support the realization of the main aims of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork policy and positively influence organic policy in Brussels. Specifically:
- To raise the voice of organic processing and trade on political level in Brussels.
- To encourage uniform and harmonized interpretation of organic legislation between EU member states.
- To contribute to the success of the Farm to Fork strategy and the goal of 25% organic farmland in 2030, which will require new and powerful instruments that accelerates the demand for organic product by consumers.
- To stimulate cooperation in the whole chain of organic food supply and relate to the conventional food industry as well.
- To strengthen the quality and stimulate the innovation of the organic sector.
- To create new perspectives and developments in both very practical topics, like residue handling, and future driven contributions on themes like climate, true costs, health and packaging.
“Consuming organic food means making a choice related to health as well as a choice for the environment”
The 25% organic farmland EU goal is said to be ambitious. Is it, considering the market situation? What are the tools that could (will) allow organic to go mainstream in the EU this decade and reach the F2F strategy target?
The 25% goal is very ambitious and in order to achieve it, every part of the organic food chain should work together. But first of all, we need a market-driven approach to connect demand with suppliers and make the conversion of many millions of farmers to organic practices possible. If we don’t succeed to speed up the demand, the conversion will not take place. This is where politics needs to develop much stronger instruments within the next years – both at national and European level.
We need tax related instruments based on true cost accounting, strong promotional campaigns and organic in public procurement. Furthermore, it is crucial to change the way we communicate about the effects of our dietary choices on each individual and our natural surroundings.
OPTA presented an action plan to reach the F2F goals including 3 key tools – Tax instruments, creating a public demand for organic products & EU-wide organic promotional campaigns. What feedback from the key-decision makers are you having in Brussels?
We have a clear indication that the idea of the promotional tools has been taken up from the European Commission. 25% of the agricultural promotion budget will be ear-marked for organic promotion. And we as OPTA are very happy about this decision.
We know that the Commission is working on setting up an Organic Action Plan. OPTA contributed to that public consultation and we are confident that promotion and public procurement will be important topics of the Action Plan.
In our OPTA Political Dialogue on the Farm to Fork Strategy on 2 December 2020, EU Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski appeared reserved to take up tax-related instruments. OPTA has especially recommended instruments in that direction based on true cost accounting. It is one way of internalizing the costs of environmental pollution and thereby closing the price gap between conventional and organic food.
“25% of the agricultural promotion budget will be ear-marked for organic promotion”
Why the harmonization of the residue handling in EU has to be an important issue in the regulation agenda?
As organic traders and processors we are working at the interface between farmers and both retailers and consumers. That is why we gained a lot of knowledge and experience about the different ways residues are defined and handled within the EU. We know that an unharmonized approach slows down the growth of organic.
Especially in the area of residues, there are many differences between countries, control authorities, and control bodies in how to handle findings and this disturbs the European market tremendously. It gives a lot of confusion in the market on the quality issues and that results in a lot of extra costs to the food chain. And to put it bluntly, we are dealing with a problem caused by conventional agriculture. We are happy to reduce that problem with organic agriculture and products, but we need better protection and practical support in accordance to the polluter-pays-principle.
There is a red line when it comes to achieve organic mass consumption goals? Do you consider that it’s crucial to maintain high organic quality standards?
The possibility of having access to a healthy diet and organic products should be everyone’s right. Consuming organic food means making a choice. A choice related to health as well as a choice for the environment.
It is no coincidence that during the year that just ended the growth of organic consumption has accelerated in many countries.
The sensitivity of the consumer is increasing, asking for more and more healthy foods and a controlled supply chain. The organic standards are of highest level and safeguard high quality for the future as well. And that is what we stand for.
“The possibility of having access to a healthy diet and organic products should be everyone’s right”
You come from a family and business dedicated & compromised to organic food since a very long time -HiPP works in over 50 countries and was founded by your grandfather. What’s your personal vision on the current organic market, legislative and movement momentum?
We highly appreciate the EU Commission’s acknowledgement of the positive effects of organic food and farming in the Farm to Fork Strategy. Raising the share of organic to 25% by 2030 in the EU will have positive effects both for the consumers and for the general public. Both as HiPP and in our OPTA network we ask the Commission and the political leaders in the Member States not to step back behind this goal.
At HiPP we aim to enhance organic even beyond the legal requirements. We are actively looking at supporting animal welfare and biodiversity, and at a climate-friendly production. HiPP products that fulfill these requirements are labelled with a blue seal. This shows that organic can grow both within and beyond the legal requirements and can supply consumer’s demands.
What companies can join OPTA -and why they should?
OPTA is happy to welcome European companies active in the organic processing and trade sector. OPTA is looking for companies that share the same values of organic agriculture and organic food quality, and want to cooperate to raise our common voice and contribute to the growing success of organic.
Author: Oriol Urrutia, Bio Eco Actual Co-Editor
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