The tide has turned for organics, but the ship’s sail is not completely flat. In supermarkets and specialty stores, sales fell 4% in 2021 after nearly a decade of growth. The sector recognizes what seems like a loss of love.
Agence Bio, a series of interprofessional organizations (Cniel, Cnipt, Cnpo, InterApi, Interbev, Intercéreales, Interfel, Synalaf, Terres Univia) and La Maison de la Bio have also launched, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, the first major campaign of ecological promotion with the motto “For us and for the planet, #BioRéflexe”. Because consumers should not discourage farmers from converting, as is beginning to happen with milk.
In its annual review, Agence Bio puts the situation in perspective. “Bio coughs”, acknowledged on Friday Loïc Guines and Laure Verdeau, respectively president and director of Agence Bio. But, according to them, this does not herald a deadly disease. Professionals point out that the drop in organic consumption is parallel to the general drop in spending on food products that occurred in 2021 after the Covid peaks. The organic ones would have lost only 1.34%.
Direct sales up 8%
The other offset of the analysis points to the fact that the drop was strong in supermarkets (-4% in 2021 after +7.6% in 2020) but that super and hypermarkets only sell half of the organic products in France, when they distribute the 70% of food worldwide.
“The figures for large-scale distribution do not reflect an overall view of the organic market because the organic market has the particularity of being sold in a wide variety of circuits,” point out those responsible for Agence Bio – who claim to be the only ones to draw a complete picture .
The specialists, Biocoop, Naturalia and others, occupy a quarter of the market (27%). Its sales fell a little less than 2%. In contrast, direct sales -on the farm or from the farm-, which represents 11% of the market, would have continued to grow by 8% in 2021. One out of every two organic farms sells its production directly, which constitutes a stock of 26,000 points of sale. Sales of artisans and small merchants also increased by 7%.
Agence Bio adds to this the purchases of catering outside the home, which have gained 5%, due in particular to the gradual implementation of the obligation that canteens offer 20% organic food.
13% farms, 20% organic vineyards
In the end, the share of organic products in the diet of the French (sales of organic products fell less than those of food in general) even increased very slightly. It was 6.57% in 2020. It went up to 6.63%.
The fact is that organic production in France experienced another strong increase, of 9%, in 2021. 13% of farms practice organic farming, i.e. 2 million hectares, with a peak of 20% for viticulture. The Agence Bio, which campaigns and finances reconversion projects, registers a 4% organic output but, according to it, it is mainly due to retirements.
Exports have skyrocketed to around one billion euros and therefore they sell part of the production. However, they are not enough to close the gap between the rate of conversion of agricultural land to organic and the growth rate of consumption.