The good years are over. After a decade marked by an increase in the share of organic farming from 3% to 10% and a 3.5-fold increase in consumption between 2010 and 2021, organic food is no longer popular in our shopping bags. On the occasion of the “European Organic Day”, Laure Verdeau, director of the Agence BIO (a public interest group in charge of the development, promotion and structuring of French organic agriculture, created in 2001), beats the call.
The Agence Bio has pointed out the decline in organic consumption of 1.3% in 2021, excluding restaurants. We know that this decline continued in 2022, but in what magnitude?
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Laure Verdeau. The organic food market is much more atomized than the food market in general. In organic food, mass distribution represents only 55% of the market share, specialized circuits 27%, and short circuits 11%, compared to 1% to 2% in the food industry in general. This is due to the fact that one out of two organic farms sells directly. In addition, there are craftsmen: butchers, bakers, greengrocers… who sell, among other things, organic products. The drop in organic consumption, which we hear about, concerns the first two distribution channels: the 18,000 points of sale of mass distribution and the 3,000 specialized points of sale (Biocoop, Naturalia…). In these channels, in the first half of the year, the decline in food sales in general continued, as did the decline in organic food, in a slightly more accentuated way, with a 9% drop in mass distribution. But we are starting to see signs of a rebound in September. The figures of 2021 showed that the other circuits suffered less, even if they do not counteract this overall decline. According to our information, the organic and local resist very well, especially since they are very inexpensive, as well as the craft.
How do you explain this decline in organic consumption? Is it a price problem?
There is the price, globally higher than conventional, but this criterion is less and less strong. Our barometer shows that the price barrier has gone from 77% three years ago to 70%. And we can think that it will weigh less and less, insofar as inflation affects the organic sector much less than the non-organic sector, which is exposed to the increase in the price of synthetic fertilizers. Moreover, organic farmers and industrialists are smaller structures, which pass less important increases to distributors, and which are much more contractualized, which reduces the rate increases. We have thus seen these last weeks non organic products more expensive than organic ones ! Or simply present in the shelves, like mustard and sunflower oil, when they were missing in the supermarkets. This trend is accentuated by the fact that specialized chains have structured themselves and equipped themselves with logistical skills that make them unaffordable.