Organic is BIG
Despite my many years working in the “industry” I had never been to the biggest organic trade fair in Europe before. This year I was invited to take part in a workshop on increasing the amount of organic seed that is produced and used and so jumped at the chance to experience the giant that is BIOFACH. Covering an area of 60,000m2 with over 2,000 trade stalls, it is so large that some delegates bring folding scooters to get around more quickly. I got lost on numerous occasions.
The show offers a mix of product promotion, workshops on a range of practical, political and digital subjects and of course the chance to meet up with old friends. Despite its enormous size, I would have to say that for my earthy tastes there were relatively few trade stands that were of direct professional interest (mainly seed suppliers) but what did strike me was how seriously this industry is taken in Europe. We heard in one session how quickly the organic market is growing in some countries, this year’s teacher’s pet is Denmark with 40% market growth. Organic in some countries is now at 7% of the total market. This is perceived not as a niche market but the future.
Maintaining the trust of our consumers is of course essential to organics, without that we have nothing. While some of the technological solutions offered at Biofach for verifying supply chains were impressive I was left with the feeling that we MUST work harder at shortening supply chains, and supporting collaboration among small and medium scale producers. Though not of course the whole answer there is rapid development of affordable software starting to offer help to the world's small farmers, enabling and supporting Participatory Guarantee Schemes, and reducing costs of collaboration for both local markets and for export.
As for me I still feel a bit more comfortable standing in a field of veg, but it was inspiring to see the size and range of organic products being produced. All that healthy food means healthier soils, more wildlife, and a better world.