Growth of Organic Farming
The growth of organic farming has been phenomenal over recent years. In the United States alone, more than 13,000 certified organic farmers have been registered in 2007 with the number of registrants growing steadily per year. Average yearly growth rate over a ten-year period is estimated at around 20%. Correspondingly, people’s awareness about organic products has dramatically increased, which transformed a niche market into a mainstream consumer lifestyle. Consumer demand, has in fact, turned the previously prohibitive trade in organic produce into a lucrative and growing business, with over US$55 billion in organic product revenues posted in 2009.
There is also a similar growth in the area of agricultural lands dedicated for organic farming. Worldwide, there are now an estimated 37 million hectares of farmlands that are operated using the various sustainable methods of organic farming.
While modern organic farming presently constitute only a fraction (less than 1 percent) of the world’s total agricultural output, growth in the sector—at least in most industrialized economies—is unanimously forecasted to be robust. This reflects the ever increasing consumer demand for organic products in countries such as the United States, Canada, India, Australia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
More and more people are becoming aware of the availability of organic products. As public awareness about health and environmental issues experience similar growth, the demand for organic products—that now covers a wide range of consumables from vegetables, dairy products, medicines, to apparel—is also registering a phenomenal growth. This is already highly discernible every time we visit supermarkets and grocery stores. In most cases, there are already sections or outlets dedicated for all things organic, making access to these products much easier. Previously, organic products were only accessible in smaller farmer markets and specialty shops that are often close to rural organic producers. Health- and ecology-conscious consumers needed to travel to these inconveniently located places just to purchase organic produce. Moreover, available organic produce covered only a limited variety of fruits, vegetables and other common foodstuffs.
As scientific information about health and the environment gets regularly updated and channeled to the public through traditional media, more and more people developed a preference for organic products. In the early 1980s, the activities of environmental groups such as Green Peace helped convert the demand for organics into mainstream consumption.
Consumers readily subscribed to the claim that organic products are free from synthetic chemicals and are therefore healthier alternatives to the agricultural produce that are conventionally grown and harvested. These nutrient-rich and environment-friendly products became household staples in many European and American homes and eventually became a mainstream product in western markets. Studies have shown the consistently high growth rate of the organics sector—currently averaged at 20 percent over a ten-year period—which indicates the growing popularity of organic products worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 2 percent of all agricultural produce is already cultivated using certified organic methods, making the organics trade a multi-billion dollar industry. Meanwhile, the European Union reported an even higher proportion—at 3 percent—of organic produce as a component of the entire agricultural output of the region.