US Offers Biggest Market For Organic Produces

Chennai, March 28 | Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
The increasing health and environmental awareness among consumers of the developed countries of western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, has opened up markets for organically-grown produces and food and beverages made from them.

The growing resistance among consumers to food products made from genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM farming is also said to be a major factor for the expanding demand for organic goods.

Among rich nations, the US is expected to provide the organic farmers and exporters of the developing countries the biggest business opportunities in spite of that country having a growing organic farm acreage.

According to official studies, there were over 7,800 organic farmers in the US in 2000 and most of them might be certified farmers by now. About 1.3 million acres of farmland in 49 states were certified organic in 1997 and certified organic livestock was being raised in 23 states.

Although, most of the organic production is done on relatively small farms in the US, there are also several large-scale organic farms like Pavich Family Farms in California having over 4,000 acres of 100 per cent certified organic soil and 500 acres in transition to organic.

According to the Organic Consumer Trends 2001, published by the Natural Marketing Institute in association with Organic Trade Association, the retail sales of organic food and beverages in the US are estimated to be of $20 billion by 2005.

For the organic produce exporters that eye the US market four product categories are identified as most promising.

* Products mostly tropical: These are products not produced in the US, or produced only in small quantities. Examples include coffee, coca, tea, most of the tropical fruit and vegetables (fresh or processed) spices, herbs, dried fruits and nuts.

* Offseason products: These include fresh fruit and vegetables produced in the US, but having shortage in certain months.

* In-season products: Again fruits and vegetables, for which there is a temporary or a more permanent shortage because of strong and increasing demand.

* Novelty or specialty products: This segment include high quality organic wines, certain ethnic food products or retail-packed food products, mostly to be met by the European exporters.

However, the major chunk of market demand would be for fresh organic produce (fruit and vegetable) and bulk-packed organic raw material or ingredients for further processing, packing or repacking.

Studies by the International Trade Centre and the United Nations Conference on Trade Development say that considerable amount of work is necessary to build up an organic export trade in developing countries, both on the production side and on the marketing side. At the country level, a good agricultural supply base with appropriate national or international certification is absolutely necessary, while for the producers and exporters it is important to offer a range of high quality organic food products that meet the requirement of the market.

It is also important to note that the organic certification has to be recognised or accepted within the US National Organic Programme (NOP) and the export products meet all legal and market requirements of hygiene, weight, size, ripeness, colour, packing and other technical specifications of the US.