Organic sector looks set to thrive

Support for organic farming is set to continue in Germany, despite the replacement of former Green agriculture minister Renate Knast with the more right-wing Horst Seehofer under the new coalition government.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the Berlin Green Week, attended by over 5000 farmers and food industry representatives, Mr Seehofer said the time for conflict between organic and conventional farmers was over.

“We have to show respect for both kinds of agriculture, not trade one off against the other.”

He later told journalists that the new administration was not going to reverse any of the policies introduced by his predecessor.

Organic farming has grown rapidly in Germany since Ms Knast set herself the target of having 20% of the country’s agriculture converted by 2010.

Figures presented in Berlin show that, even though the sector still accounts for less than 5% of total agricultural production, sales of organic food rose by 13% in the past year to 3.5bn (2.4bn).

The number of organic farmers now totals 16,600, cultivating around 768,000ha (1.9m acres).

This growth has been encouraged by a generous joint government/EU funded organic promotion scheme, which pays an establishment grant of 210/ha (144/ha) and a maintenance grant of 160/ha (110/ha) after the two-year conversion.

Wilhelm Schakel, who with his father rears 280 suckler cows at the Bioland Ranch near Zempow in Brandenburg, said that the sector would continue to be profitable, if the marketing was right.

“We are making a decent profit, though overall organic farming in Germany is only a little bit more profitable than conventional,” he said.