How can an organic quota of thirty per cent be achieved in Germany?

How can an organic quota of thirty per cent be achieved in Germany?

The stated goal of the German government is to achieve 30% organic farming by 2030. But how can this be achieved, given the existing crises and challenges? How to win new farms, preserve old organic farms and convince consumers of the benefits of organic products? Experts from politics, commerce, research, agriculture and other fields met at sixth Biological Forum in Visselhövede to discuss this topic. The panel was moderated by Carolin Grieshop, Managing Director of the Competence Center Organic Agriculture Lower Saxony (KÖN).

(From left to right:) Prof. Dr. Nina Langen (Executive Director of the Institute for Vocational Training and Occupational Education at ETH Berlin), Christoph Schäfer (farmer and president of Bio Kartoffel Erzeuger eV), Hubert Heigl (Agriculture Council of the Federation of the Organic Food Industry, BÖLW), Silvia Bender (State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture), Carolin Grieshop (General Manager of KÖN), Marcus Wewer (Head of organic quality management, REW Group) and Dr. Holger Hennis (Vice-President of the German Farmers’ Association, DBV).

Nina Langen (University of Göttingen) introduced the panel discussion with a presentation which emphasized, among other things, that younger consumers pay particular attention to the aspects of taste, safety and price when shopping. The expectation influences the respective taste perception, since external factors such as the name (example: ice cream or smoked salmon cream) as well as the shape of the product (example: round shapes “taste sweeter” than angular). In out-of-home catering, fresh preparation or regionality are more important, for example, than biodiversity. Furthermore, most consumers do not distinguish between the different aspects of sustainability.

Training and “nudging”
Langen calls for qualified staff to be trained on other aspects for which, however, a policy framework should also be provided. As a further strategy, Langen recommends “encouraging”, ie motivating consumers to buy more organic products, through conscious positioning and presentation on the market. In the canteens, dishes with (organic) vegetables can be chosen as a ‘base dish’ and meat can only be provided on request. In other words, the previous decision of another body also facilitates the consumer’s decision. That this can work well is also shown by the concept of the Copenhagen House of Food, whereby the share in the catering sector in Denmark is already 90%. Berlin is engaging in a project based on this model.

The discussion panel
From the point of view of agricultural experts, Christoph Schäfer points out that the producers should not be forgotten either. Farmers should in no way be pressured to go organic. However, a transition will be more likely if the framework conditions are right and security of supply is ensured. Christoph would also like there to be a policy of support and accompaniment from politicians, and urges strongly: “We should no longer go back to the delivery-only mentality”.

State Secretary Silvia Bender says the 30% target is not binding, but politicians are busy creating the framework conditions under discussion for the agricultural sector. This too is a task of the entire federal government. To this end, the research sector should be promoted more strongly and the yield gap between the organic and conventional sales markets should be bridged. First of all, we need to address the sales markets of out-of-home catering. The combinability of organic farming and other areas must be ensured, especially with regard to sustainability goals.

Holger Hennies of the German Farmers’ Association points out that 90% of the problems of conventional agriculture also concern organic agriculture. The increase in volumes would be a lever to steer prices so that consumers buy them. Hennies sees the new EU directives as a challenge in this regard. Hubert Heigl of BÖLW is certain that organic farming will not achieve the same yields as conventional farming, but that is not the main goal. Rather, there should be more incentives to purchase organic food. Heigl suggests, for example, lowering the VAT on organic products. “But we wouldn’t want that either.”

According to Marcus Wewer of the REWE Group, food retailers are working hard to meet the 30% target. The fruit and vegetable sector, for example, is already clearly moving in this direction. For other products, such as snacks, the implementation is much more difficult. Wewer also welcomes the participation of food retailers in the Organic Field Days, which he sees as a clear signal both to the outside world and in communication between the retail sector and agriculture. Furthermore, Wewer clarified that the Federal Association of the German Food Trade (BVLH) strongly supports the 30% target in its position paper.

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