July 14, 2021

Organic imports into the European Union fell slightly last year, according to a report released by the 27-member bloc’s executive branch.

The briefing paper from the European Commission said that 2.79 million tonnes of organic agri-food products were imported by the EU in 2020, a 1.9% drop on the previous year’s figure of 2.85 million tonnes.

All the decrease was accounted for by organic commodities, because imports of all other categories of organic produce – including processed products and fish – remained flat or increased.

“Fruit and vegetables is the largest group of imported organic product categories, with 1.29 million tonnes imported in 2020 (46% of total organic imports),” the briefing paper stated.

“The largest share is composed by tropical fruit, nuts and spices (65% of organic fruit and vegetables) which include mainly bananas (81% of tropical fruit).”

The Netherlands was the biggest importer, followed by Germany, Belgium, France and Italy. Among the top five importers to the EU were Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Peru, which sold nuts, spices and tropical fruit in large amounts.

China and Ukraine were also in the top five, with the former sending oil cakes, which are often used in animal feed.

“For some of the product categories, organic imports are estimated to represent a significant share of total imports,” the report said.

The briefing paper highlighted olive oil, for which almost one sixth of imports were organic, although for most food categories, organic produce accounted for less than 5% of the total, and for meat products the organic share was “close to zero”.

Aside from its organic imports, the EU has set a target that 25% of its farmland should be organic by 2030, a tripling of the current figure.

Although organic sales in the bloc jumped four-fold between 2000 and 2019, they still only make up 4% of total food turnover.

Click here to read more about the global organic produce market

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