French Organic Market 2016

The French organic retail market has passed the 7 billion euro mark in 2016, according to the annual Agence bio, a clear 20% growth year on year compared to 2015.

The annual Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey indicates that nearly 9 out of 10 people, 89%, have bought an organic product in the last twelve months, with 69% buying organic products at least once a month, and a hard core of 15% who use organic products every day. This 15% is a huge 50% increase from the 19% in the same survey in 2015.

After a year of headlines about the on-going crisis in the French agricultural sector, and with avian flu gripping the country the Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey revealed that over 82% of the French think it is important to continue the development of the organic agriculture sector, and 83% of those surveyed saying that they have a high level of confidence in organic certified products.

When questioned about their understanding of general role of organic products and products. The strongest impact stated was environmental, with 92% believing that organic agriculture is better for the environment that industrial farming techniques, 89% believing that organic produce are more ‘natural’ than those that use synthetic chemicals, 88% saying that they think organic products are better for your health, with 80% believing that organic products guard their nutritional qualities better than industrial products, 70% agree that organic products simply taste better.

The general understanding of exactly the organic regulatory regime has also improved. 91% of those surveyed knew that Genetically Modified organisms are banned under organic regulations, and 71% were aware that colorants and artificial flavoring are also taboo. The fact that organic certification means followed strict procedures with at least one annual control by the certification body was also known to 82% of those questioned. 87% also were aware that organic rules ensure a higher decree of animal welfare and a better quality of animal feed.

Motivation of French Organic Consumers

When questioned about their motivation in buying organic as usual the belief that organic products are better for your health headed the list, 66%, good for the environment, 58%, better quality, tastes better, 56%, that organic products are safer/less likely to be contaminated, with 28% quoting animal welfare as their driving motivation.

What they buy

What people buy has not changes much year in year out, even while the French organic market grows. Fruit and vegetables continue as the largest category, followed by milk and it’s derivatives, yogurt, butter and cheese, organic eggs, and in fourth place general groceries such as pasta, rice, with meat coming in fifth. This is no real surprise as it also reflects those categories with the least organic premium in the lead, with the highest premium coming last. The strict organic rules in animal density and fodder regulations will always ensure that there remains a large price difference between, for example a cage raised, hormone fed chicken, and an organic, free range alternative.

Where they buy

The French organic retail market continues to be dominated by the large and medium sized retail operators. Specialist organic shops, while growing, we now have both a Bio Coop and a Vie Claire in little old Lezignan Corbieres, still are frequented by 31% of organic consumers as opposed to 80% who buy their organic produce from the big boys. Markets, 28%, and artisans such as organic bakers, 41% and farm gate sales, 18% play a small but important role.

Eating organic produce outside of the home has also seen a small explosion. Local government , mainly Departmental and Municipal, initiatives have seen a rapid growth in organic food being used in workplace canteens, schools and colleges, retirement homes and state and trade union run holiday camps.

The European Organic Market

According to research done by Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and the Agricultural Market Information Company (AMI) in association with IFOAM EU. The EU wide organic market in 2014 represented just over 26 billion euros, lead by Germany, France comes in second place ahead of the UK.

For the full IFOAM second edition of Organic in Europe: Prospects and Developments 2016. (PDF) can be downloaded free at

For more information on the Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey you can see the headlines at

and download the entire report in PDF form here

‘New Scientist’ Misinterprets Organic

organic-foodIn a recent article for New Scientist, Michael Le Page is wrong to tell people not to eat organic if they care about the planet. He misreads the evidence, which shows organic farming is generally the better choice, writes the Soil Association’s Tom MacMillan

But he is also coming at this back to front. Models show that simply producing food more efficiently is not going to make a big enough, fast enough dent in greenhouse gas emissions (Bajželj et al., 2014). Rather, the big win comes from us eating a different mix of foods, particularly less but better meat. How can you find that better meat, fed mainly on grass and not on crops from deforested land? Look for an organic label.

Let’s unpack this. Work by Bojana Bajželj and colleagues (2014) shows that if we project current trends towards increased yields and demand through to 2050, then agriculture and land use change alone will account for almost all the emissions the world can afford if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. That would mean every other activity, from generating energy to transport and house-building, could emit no net GHGs.

Even really optimistic yield assumptions, which assume we pull something incredible out of the bag, leave agriculture and land use taking about three-quarters of the total emissions budget, and producing around 50% more GHGs than in 2009. Whatever happens with yields, the whole picture only starts to look plausible if we change what we eat, and how much food goes to waste. Changing both could get us down below 2009 emissions, even assuming yields stay on current trends. If we do better on yields, then so much the better, as we earn a little headroom.

Exactly what a climate-friendly diet looks like is much debated. There’s something close to consensus that following current dietary guidelines, which would mean eating a lot less meat than people average in the US and Europe, would be a big help (Garnett  2014). What type of meat? We know that growing crops for animal feed is a big driver of tropical deforestation. That feed goes largely to poultry, pigs and ruminants that could be eating grass instead. Meanwhile animals fed largely on grass and other forage can do a good job of using agriculture’s ‘ecological leftovers’ (Garnett  2014). There is therefore a strong case for making sure any meat and dairy you eat has been fed largely on forage. For most people reading Le Page’s article, an organic label will be the most reliable way of tracking this down.

Le Page’s excitement about GM is a red herring at best.  For a start it is grown largely as a feed crop, so is implicated in the problem. In some of the world’s top soya-producing countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, GM soya accounts for between 93-100% of total soya production, most of which is turned into animal feed. But there is also evidence that GM crops have had little if any productivity advantage, despite enthusiasts’ assumptions that they must.

What about everything else? Le Page acknowledges that organic farms have more wildlife. His main worry is that lower than average yields offset this. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Organic farms have an average 50% more wildlife versus a 20% lower yield. Le Page is wrong to suggest that organic food has a higher GHG footprint, according to a recent review of the evidence. Organic farming produces lower GHGs per hectare, even without taking into account higher carbon sequestration in organic systems. Adjusting for lower yields, there isn’t a consistent and significant difference between organic and non-organic foods per unit product (Knudsen et al. 2011). But which is the right measure? We should aim to halt forest destruction, reduce emissions per hectare and adjust what we eat towards the kind of diet such farming can sustain.

Meanwhile, the yield gap is closing. Organic yields can even out-perform non-organic in stressed conditions like droughts, and in developing countries.  Organic farming can also improve our resilience to climate change. Crop rotations help build soil structure, improving water storage and reducing flood and drought potential. And that’s not to mention the fact organic certification assures the highest standards of  animal welfare. If LePage wishes to find a climate friendly way of farming, he may want to reconsider organic. Organic farming does not have all the answers and there is more, even in organic systems, that can be done to reduce emissions and improve our impact on the environment. Nor does it let us off the hook from changing our diets. But it certainly can help, now and into the future, to achieve the best impact we can through those dietary choices.


Tom is Director of Innovation at the Soil Association. His role is to support continuous improvement in farming in line with organic principles. Before joining the Soil Association in 2011, Tom was Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council. He’s served on various advisory groups and boards, including the expert advisory panel for the UK Cabinet Office Food Matters report, ScienceWise, the BBSRC Science and Society Strategy Panel, and the boards of Sustain and the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. His PhD investigated the use and abuse of science in food regulation.


This article was taken from the Soil Associations website

Soil degradation as big a threat to humanity as climate change

9fa117aec143a65c10cad3588c946cfd_mA new report published today by the Sustainable Food Trust to mark World Soil Day, explains why soil degradation is increasing and calls for it to be recognised alongside climate change, as one of the most pressing problems facing humanity.

Soil degradation costs up to £7 trillion a year and poses a grave long-term threat to food security and the environment. It reduces the ability of farmland to produce food at a time when more will be demanded of soils than ever before due to population increase and climate change.

More than 95% of the food we eat depends on soil, but half (52%) of all farmland soils worldwide are already degraded, largely due to inappropriate farming methods.

Every year, 24 billion tonnes of soil is irrevocably lost to the world’s oceans due to wind and water erosion – that’s equivalent to 3.4 tonnes for every person on the planet or a 12 tonne lorry load for an average UK family of two parents and 1.7 children.

SFT policy director, Richard Young said, “Few people think about soil when they do their shopping, in part because most root vegetables have all the soil washed off them these days, but the reality is that for every trolley of food we wheel back to our cars, we are tipping three trolleys full of the same weight of soil into the river to be washed away.

“With continuing population growth and the relentless march of climate change, we need soils to produce higher yields in the years to come, yet they are in a more depleted state than at any time in human history. Urgent action is now needed to develop common solutions which address climate change and soil degradation simultaneously”.

The problem, however, may be even worse than these figures suggest. In addition to the loss of soil itself, much of the soil that remains in the fields is losing organic matter. Organic matter is largely made up of carbon and nitrogen and these elements are being lost from soils as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which increase global warming.

Soils with low levels of organic matter lack the ability to produce maximum crop yields, retain moisture during dry times or produce crops that resist pests and diseases. They are also unable to stand up to the physical impact of heavy rain, flooding and farm machinery.

Report – Soil degradation: a major threat to humanity

Les Néo Paysants


neopaysantsLes Néo Paysants, Gaspard d’Allens and Lucile Leclair

Edition Seuil with Reporterre

French agriculture is in plain crisis. The idyllic countryside so beloved by tourists and the French imagination is in most cases just that, an imaginary fantasy, a rosy glassed memory of a time past that in reality never existed.

France remains Europe’s largest farming nation, producing 18% of the EU’s agricultural output, that is of course pre Brexit figures. 53% of mainland France is farmland, and France is Europe’s largest producer of cereals, maize, sugar, beef, and of course wine.

The reality is however that a farmer commits suicide two day of the year, in the last ten years over 10,000 farms have disappeared and 200,000 agricultural jobs have disappeared. On average 200 farms close up ever week, for every two workers in agriculture who retire only one new starts.

The average debt per farm has risen from 50,000 euro in 1980 to 163.700 euro in 2011.This rise in debt has been driven by two key pressures, firstly the need to increase the size of a farm to maintain a standard of living under threat from lowering prices with the necessary investment in new larger machinery to exploit this large surface, the second is the increase in pesticide use, despite the Ecophyto project aiming to reduce chemical us in agriculture by 50%between 2008 and 2018 the use of pesticides has actually gone up by 5%

In France the most common size of farms is between 50 and 99.9 hectares of agricultural land , representing 97,780 farms, or 19% in 2010. The avaerage farm size has been steadily growing, from hectares in 7 in 2005. At the top end size wise, farms over 100 hectares now farm 59% of France’s agricultural land

This concentration at the top end of the pyramid is also reflected in the type of agriculture, the mixed farming of the past is being replaced by monoculture farming, dominated by cereal production and large scale animal farming, particularly milk and beef production.

Increasingly run by farmers who rarely “Get down from their tractors” as the French say. Farmers have less and less control of what they produce and how. Software programmes plugged into the latest Common Agrcultural Policy support regime decide what is sown when. Outsourcing of the key farming functions, ploughing, sowing, harvesting to work crews is more and more common. It is the major seed companies, as a condition of sale of their sterile seeds, that determine the treatments that each cereal has to be sprayed with little if any understanding of the nature of the ever thinning top soil.

Animal raising is also turning into a industrial process, whether it be shed farming of chickens, veal, pigs and beef or the faact that in Brittany, France’s leading meat producing region 78% of fodder is now bought in, almost 100% for chickens, pigs and veal production. A growing trend is that farmers actually do not own the animals they raise, they ‘bed and breakfasting’ for fixed periods of time, with feed and antibiotic treatments been delivered by the owner, often a food company not a farmer.

It is no surprise to see that the number of agricultural workers in France has plunged, in 1988 it stood at 1,176,567 , by 2007 it had dropped to 770,000.

The tradition of family farms that pass from generation to generation is breaking up, a survey in 2914 showed that 42% of farmers did not expect their siblings to take over the enterprise.

So is this slow decline and concentration inevitable, and what can be done to shift towards a more humane and environmentally sustainable agricultural system?

In Les Néo Paysants Gaspard d’Allens and Lucile Leclairlook at one encouraging trend, the neo ruralists that are turning to the farming despite not coming from an agricultural background. Now as any French film buff will tell you neo ruralists are not exactly a new phenomena. Marcel Pagnol’s Jean de Florette is all about one family and their efforts. The post 1968 generation can still be spotted hanging about at organic festivals, indeed the Domaine de Montrouch was first renovated by a 1968 couple motivated by their Maoist politics.

In Les Néo Paysants the authors use tye simple took of visiting a wide range of neo ruralists accross France anduses their experiences and context to address the key issues facing French agriculture. It is a superb introduction to the skills and experience that neo ruralists bring to their new profession, as well as the wide range of small scale agricultural projects that are re animating rural French life.

Today 30% of all new agricultural start ups are neo paysants, over 60% of these new farms are organic or in transition to organic production. France is now Europe’s third largest organic producer, behind Spain and Italy with 4% of agriculural land now under organic production representing 1.1 million hectares of farm land.

Equally important there is a strong tendency to move away from the industrial productivist model. That does not mean however a less intensive agricultural model, small scale mixed farming if done in an integrated way can be a very productive use of available land. This is true about horticultural production although organic rules about the space required for animals means that meat production requires more land per head, equally organic cereals and viticulture have on the whole lower yields per hectare. Recently released research from the Rodale Institue on it’s thirty year comparison of industrial agriculture yields vs organic methods however cast doubts on this generalization see It is naturally being contested by the industrial agriculural lobby.

Alternative marketing systems are slowly emerging, from local producers markets, organic markets, box schemes, to local producers co op shops. Restaurateurs are finding that marketing themselves as users of locally produced products and traditional recipes are attracting a loyal clientele. Here in France school canteens are being actively encouraged to source locally. Increased consumer interest in organic and local production has been a factor in the growing market aided by associations such as the Slow Food movement.

Such positive developments however can be over egged, the rise of out of town shopping centres, the French are second to the US on them, low cost supermarkets, pre-prepared meals and fast food all means that we are a long way from an alternative food paradise. Having more pizzerias than Italy, and being McDonald’s second most profitable market show that the reality is going to be a lot harder to change than green activists would have one believe.

Organic wine in France

organic wineWhen I first came across organic wine it was frankly a victory of conviction over taste to drink it, but now there are some organic wines that can hold their own against most mid market contenders.

The sector has grown massively in the last twenty years. The latest figures are that there are now 5,186 organic vineyards with a further 150 in conversion from industrial to organic in the first quarter of 2016.  With exports up 25% there has been a 10% increase in the total number of hectares under organic production between 2015 and 2016. Organic wine now represents 9% of the total French wine production, Amphore which organises a professional wine tasting awards every year just celebrated it’s twenty years anniversary this May, chief organiser Pierre Guigui says, “Twenty years ago there was 300 organic wine producers, now there is 16 times more.However at this rate it will be another two centuries before we convert all of the French wine industry.”

Is there such a thing as organic wine?

Now I have my issues with organic wine, I am not over sure a “pur et dur” organic wine exists in France. There are a few reasons for this doubt.

Firstly vineyards that have been used to produce industrial wine before have been saturated with pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers for decades. The short period of conversion to organic, while very painful for the owner does not in my opinion allow enough time for these chemicals to leach out.

Secondly the distance between an organic exploitation and an industrial one is actually quite small, simply three rows of vines. I drive through clouds of chemicals when I pass a sprayer, and here in the Corbieres we gave been known to have a bit of wind ever now again, chemicals like ideas know no borders.

So OK, you do what we did,  you find a bit of land that has not been worked for years and had no neighbours, then you can pass directly to organic status, superb no problems with spray, no underlying chemicals but you still have to obey the orders that arrive from the Prefecture when their are outbreaks of diseases, sometimes there are organic alternatives, sometimes not.

Those niggles aside however organic wine production is a vast improvement on industrial wine production, it’s concentration on biodiversity, soil management and purity of production has both huge environmental impact and lowers the headache factor of over indulgence. It also allows wine producers to benefit from slightly higher prices to compensate for the lower production level. The key factor however is to find the balance between quality and value for money, with lower buying power organic wine needs to not price itself out of the mid market.

Amphore Organic Wine Competition

Who owns the US organic market?

US organic mrketWhere the US corporations lead the rest of the world follows, the organic market is no different.

The US organic market is the world’s leading organic market, in 2013 Statista estimated it at 24, 347 million Euros, as opposed to Europe’s largest organic market Germany 7,550 million Euros (See :

Organically certified food is in that premium food category loved by corporations, a niche market that is up to a point price insensitive. Organic buyers motivated primarily by perceived health benefits, and secondly by the environmental benefits of organic production allow corporations to increase their profit yields by paying a larger premium for organic. The major US food corporations have been quick to step in. The reality is that in the US, as in Europe, the majority of organic produce is not bought at farmers markets or direct from producers, they are just a side show, the real business is through major retailers.

Large food corporations are of a size that can negotiate with large retailers and the wider range of produce they can offer the more powerful negotiating hand they hold.

According to Dr. Phil Howard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State the first acquisition wave was between December 1997 and October 2002, this coincided with the launch and implementation of the US organic standards which regularised the rules for certified organic produce. A second wave started after 2012, 

Dr. Howard observes, “I expect more deals to occur, since organic foods sales continue to increase faster than sales of conventional foods, and corporations are flush with cash and/or access to cheap credit.”

Source: The Cornucopia Institute

Baldwin’s European Herb map

A bit of fun from Baldwins, London’s oldest herbalist- click on the map for an enlarged version


<div style=”clear:both”><a href=”” ><img src=”” title=”Baldwins European Herb Map” alt=”Baldwins European Herb Map” border=”0″ /></a></div><div>Courtesy of: <a href=”” ></a></div>



Baldwins website and blog

SOLIDARITE à activer !

Solidarité Paybee-blog-090706-homemade-beehivesanne de l’Aude nous a contactés pour récolter les ruches d’un jeune apiculteur, Damien Bernard,  qui a connu d’importantes contraintes d’installation et se retrouve aujourd’hui à l’hôpital pour un long moment.

Nous nous retrouvons avec 400 kg de miel de très bonne qualité provenant de ruches installées sur des territoires sauvages en Ariège et Montagne Noire.
Il nous faut vendre ce miel rapidement pour éponger les dettes de Damien.
Nous vous proposons de vous régaler tout en participant  à la solidarité pour cet apiculteur en grande difficulté.

Miel de montagne  ///  Miel  de châtaignier

>> en pot d’1 kg  à 13 € le kg

>> en seau de 5 kg à 10 € le  kg

>> en seau de 20 kg ou plus à 8,50 € le kg

A prendre chez Pascal Pavie à Festes 06 87 87 79 32

Ou livrable à la Maison Paysanne à  Limoux 12 Rue des Genêts 11 300 LIMOUX

Les ruches
Dadan 10 cadres avec hausse pratiquement neuves, productives et  populeuses sont à vendre à un prix d’environ 200 euros
Pour en savoir plus : Emma Cowley 06 27 81 82 65  (répondeur)

French Organic market

The organic market in France is rising steadily, in 2013 it amounted to 4.38 billion euros up from 3.17 billion in 2012. (Source Agence bio) The UK organic market for 2014 in comparison is estimated by the Soil Association to be around 2.61 billion euros.

More importantly from my perspective is that the local organic producer numbers and the amount of land certified organic or in conversion is also increasing. At the end of 2014 1.12 millon hectares of agricultural land in France was certified organic or in transition to organic. In total that means 4.14% of all agricultural land is now under organic use.

Organic Land  France

Source Agence bio

The highest concentration of organic produce is here the South.

Midi-Pyrénées (145 409 ha),

Pays de la Loire(115 570 ha), OK not in the south I admit

Languedoc-Roussillon(100 789 ha),

Rhône-Alpes (96 331 ha)

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (93 184 ha).

Contrary to expectations wine does not lead the charge even here in the South, of the 1.12 million hectares of organic land just under 55,000 is vines compared to 193,000 hectares of cereals and dried vegetables.

Of the 26,466 organic farms 19% grow vines, 41% produce fruit and/or vegetables. 61% have pasture land, and only 7% have aromatic herbs.

Organic vs industrial farming by Department

Source Agence bio

If you read French the full facts abd figures are available at the Agence bio report

The two maps used here are from the Agence bio report