Fresh Organic Deciduous Fruit Production Overseas
Full-scale, sector-specific organic reports from FAS overseas offices are not possible at this time because data and information are scarce. However, as supply and demand for organic products grows, so will the need for a better understanding of the current status, trends and future outlook. The following items were sent in by attaches as part of comprehensive reports on the conventional deciduous fruit sectors of their respective host countries to help shed some light on the organic side of the equation.
Austria - About 600 hectares (1,480 acres or 5 percent of the total commercial fruit area) are devoted to organic fruit production. Apples dominate, accounting for 40 percent of planted area, followed by pears-- 4 percent; cherries/sour cherries--2 percent; plums--1 percent; apricots--3 percent; peaches--2 percent; nuts and quince--4 percent; strawberries--7 percent; red currents--11 percent; and other berries, including elderberries--26 percent.
In Austria, "integrated" fruit production (where limits are placed on the quantity of fertilizer and pesticides allowed) is subsidized at the rate of $US440 per hectare ($US175 per acre) to compensate for higher labor costs and lower yields. Organic production is supported at the significantly higher rate of $US625 per hectare ($US255 per acre). However, despite the subsidies and a level of demand that exceeds supply, relatively few farmers have gone organic and currently far less than 1 percent of either fruit production or consumption in Austria is organic. Constraints on production include high labor costs, fear of losses to diseases and pests, and lack of knowledge about organic cultivation methods. However, bolstered by consumers prepared to pay higher prices for organic products, organic fruit production is expected to rise in the long term.
China - Conventional fruit growers main production inputs include pesticides and plant medicines (nutrients sprayed on the foliage). These are applied from 3 to 7 times per season, depending on factors such as weather and incidence of disease. Chemicals used to extend the harvest season are rare because growers believe yields would be adversely affected. Fertilizer usage is not great among deciduous fruit growers due to its expense and the fact that a sizable percentage of apple and pear trees in China are grown on uneven, sloping land which sometimes results in high wastage rates.
Despite continued dependence on chemicals for growing deciduous fruit in China, the Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) is promoting decreased use, citing the growing importance of environmental protection. In Shandong province, for example, officials are encouraging more bio-friendly methods of disease and pest control. MAF also states that no genetically modified deciduous fruit currently is grown commercially in China, but that research in this area could be occurring somewhere in China.
France - Apples account for the largest share (22 percent) of fruit consumption in France. Apples have a good image and most consumers associate them with healthy eating and fun. France imports relatively few apples and the U.S. share of apple imports has remained at only1 to 2 percent over the past 5 years. Nevertheless, there are indications of niche market potential for U.S. organic apples, especially for Red Delicious and bi-color varieties. French organic apple production is low and organic apples are often not readily available through large retail chains or the catering sector. Generally, due to their higher price, organic apples are more likely to be purchased individually for snacking. The high price means that import duties will have a smaller impact on the final price to the consumer.
Netherlands - Today, more than half of the apple and pear orchards in the Netherlands are managed under environmentally friendly methods that minimize use of chemicals and encourage pest control through natural methods. Organic apple production lags behind other EU countries like Italy and Germany, but it is growing. In 1999, ten farms began growing organic apples with a once-only subsidy of $US884 per acre, and this year, there are 40 in production. One distributor, Odin, markets organic yellow apples to health food shops, and through produce subscription schemes. The company also exports to the United Kingdom, but because of the small supply of yellow apples from July to September, Odin imports organic apples from Italy for re-export to the United Kingdom. Dutch supermarket chains are only interested in selling organic apples if the price decreases.
The Netherlands does not produce much apple juice. In 1999, organic juices had a market share of only 0.5 percent in the Dutch juice market, but that share is estimated to reach 2.5 percent by 2003. More growers are beginning to produce high quality organic apple and pear juice which is often labeled with its region of origin.
It is difficult for Italy, Spain, and some other countries to compete with the Dutch pear sector on quality. Organic pear production offers opportunities for Dutch growers, since production elsewhere in Europe is so low.
Swedens organic apple and pear producers are eligible for
government support at the rate of about $US 425 per acre as part
of a government goal established several years ago to convert 10
percent of all crop area to organic production by 2000. To date,
however, very few fruit growers have taken advantage of the
subsidy. The market for organic fruit is small but may expand as
Swedish consumers are becoming more aware of the health and
environmental implications of their food choices. Currently,
about 80 percent of the commercial conventional fruit crop is
grown using the principles of Integrated Production which aims at
minimizing the risk for the environment and health. Such produce
is marketed with the Svenskodlat (grown in Sweden) label
to identify it clearly for consumers.
French Organic Sweet Corn
France is the leading European producer of sweet corn, accounting for 85 percent of canned and 68 percent of frozen production in the EU in 1999. Typical sweet corn consumers in France are under 25 years old, including families with two or more children who find sweet corn easy to handle and prepare and attractive to children. However, French sweet corn production decreased in 1999 with reduced consumer demand resulting from concerns that the sweet corn was genetically altered. To combat the trend, a campaign was launched by French sweet corn producers, processors and public authorities informing consumers that no genetically modified variety of sweet corn is authorized for domestic production or is imported into France and Europe.
Although a net exporter of sweet corn, France imports from the United States, Hungary and Thailand. In marketing year 1999/2000, the United States was the lead canned supplier with 32 percent of the market. France does not import frozen corn from the United States, but frozen French and U.S. corn competes on the European market. Potential opportunities for U.S. exporters exist for certified non-GMO and certified organic sweet corn. Currently, there is no domestically grown organic sweet corn in France, but in 1999 and 2000, French sweet corn producers conducted surveys on the technical and economic feasibility of growing sweet corn organically.
For more news on organics, see HTPs monthly newsletter "Organic Perspectives," available at the HTP home page: www.fas.usda.gov/htp/organics/organics.html The newsletter contains reports on organics from around the world gleaned from attache reports, trips made by HTPs organics staff, and other sources. The newsletter also covers items of interest about the U.S. national organic program and the domestic organic industry. A list of upcoming conferences, trade shows and other events is included in every issue.
(For further information, contact Janise Zygmont at 202-720-1176.)