The latest agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics from the European Union confirm that organic food output continues to increase across the continent.

The total organic area across the EU-27 in 2018 was 13 million hectares, corresponding to 8% of the total utilised agricultural area.

The total organic area is the sum of the ’area under conversion’ and the ’certified area’. Before an area can be certified as ‘organic’, it must undergo a conversion process, which may take two to three years, depending on the crop.

A small majority of the EU’s total organic area was located in just four member states: Spain (17.3%), Italy (15.7%), France (15.1%) and Germany (9.4%). These four member states had a higher collective proportion of the organic area (57.5%) than of total utilised agricultural area (51.3% in 2016).

The total organic area in the EU increased by 3.5 million hectares between 2012 and 2018. This is equivalent to an increase of just over one third (+37.2%). This upward development was noted in all member states, with one notable exception - Poland.

Organic Tillage

Organic tillage land covered 6 million hectares across the EU-27 in 2018 and organic pastures and meadows - mostly used for grazing organic livestock - a further 5.6 million hectares.

Together these two types of land use accounted for about 90% of the EU’s total organic crop area. The latest EU statistics confirm that organic permanent grassland dominates in Ireland.

The increase in organic output across the EU as a whole was driven by the above-average growth in the total organic area in France (+97.3% between 2012 and 2018, which added 1 million hectares of organic area) and in Italy (+67.7%, which added 0.8 million hectares) and supported by expansions in Spain (+27.9%), Germany (+27.2%) and Sweden (+27.4%).

The fastest expansions in organic area over the reference period were in Bulgaria and Croatia, where they tripled, adding a combined 160,000 hectares.

From 2012 to 2018, the share of total organic area in the total utilised agricultural area within the EU rose from 5.9% to 8%. There were some member states where this share was much higher, most particularly Austria (24.1%); Estonia (21.0%); and Sweden (20.3%).

In contrast, there were member states for whom the share of total organic area in the total utilised agricultural area was below, and sometimes well below, the EU average. These included, among others, France (7.0%); the Netherlands (3.5%); Poland (3.3%); and Romania (2.4%).

The potential for organic production can also be indicated by the area under conversion as a percentage of the utilised agricultural area. The highest shares of area under conversion in 2018 using this measure were in Italy (3.6%); Estonia (3.5%); and Greece (3.3%).