In 2000, the yearbook “The World of Organic Agriculture” was published for the first time. The figures from this joint publication have been presented at the presented at the leading BIOFACH trade fair. Helga Willer reports on how it all began and how the data collection has developed since then.

When the initiators of the BIOFACH trade fair asked the Stiftung Ökologie & Landbau (SÖL) in 1999 whether it would be interested in presenting the most important statistics on organic farming every year at BIOFACH, we could not have imagined that we would still be presenting the latest figures regularly in Nuremberg years later – for the 25th time in 2024!

Since data collection began, the global organic area has increased by over 400 percent and the organic market by over 700 percent (2000-2021). Worldwide, almost 77 million hectares or 1.6 percent of agricultural land was organic in 2021; global retail sales of organic food reached almost 125 billion euros (see figure). Support for number crunching has also grown. In the early days, the activities were carried out by SÖL and supported by Biofach. Today, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL Switzerland) collects the data. It is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss Coop Fund for Sustainability, IFOAM – Organics International and NürnbergMesse as the organizer of Biofach. The collection is also made possible by numerous partners from all over the world, some of whom have been supplying their data for 25 years.

The data collection has been continuously expanded since 1999 and is now the most important reference work on the development of organic farming

The data collection has been continuously expanded since 1999 and is now the most important reference work on the development of organic farming. The EU Commission, for example, uses the figures to show that European consumers place a high value on organic products. Scientists regularly cite the data in their work. In 2015, the survey on the status of voluntary sustainability standards such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance, which are published annually on vss.fibl.org, was added to the organic farming data.

Most of the data is collected through personal contacts, but a lot of data can also be obtained via the Internet. For example, Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, offers data on areas, livestock, production and farms on its website. Those countries that do not make their data publicly available receive a FiBL questionnaire. If there is no national body that collects data, FiBL collects the data from international certifiers and compiles it itself for the country in question.

The World of Organic Agriculture 2023

 

A collection of over 200 data sources

The area and production data often come from different sources than the market, export and import data. For example, in the US, data on organic acreage, production and livestock comes from the US Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Statistics, while retail trade data is provided by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Import and export data, on the other hand, come from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the Department of Agriculture. In total, FiBL works with at least 200 different data sources and suppliers.

The most important medium for disseminating the data is the yearbook “The World of Organic Agriculture”

In addition to the demanding quality assurance, it is also labor-intensive to manage the constantly increasing volume of data. Improved access to data via digital tools is a further challenge. FiBL provides interactive databases and infographics on its website statistics. fibl.org, which requires constant further development. We are therefore working on adding further indicators, improving user-friendliness and being able to estimate production data automatically.

The most important medium for disseminating the data is the yearbook “The World of Organic Agriculture”, which FiBL publishes together with IFOAM – Organics International and presents annually at the BIOFACH trade fair. In addition to detailed tables and graphs, this work also contains reports on the development of organic farming on the continents and on topics such as the market and legislation. Accompanying the book, the data can be accessed interactively online. The offer is rounded off by infographics that are very popular with users and, like the other materials, can be accessed via organic-world.net.

Author: Helga Willer, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)

Originally published in the German magazine Ökologie & Landbau

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