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Country Report - Bulgaria

by Stoilko Apostolov, Bioselena.

This article was originally written for the publication "Organic in Europe", published by the IFOAM EU Group in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Institute for Agronomic Research CIHEAM-IAM, Bari, Italy.

Key indicators 2012

  • Organic agricultural area: 39,138 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 2,754
    • Organic processors: 81
    • Organic importers: 1
    • Organic exporters:14
  • Retail sales: EUR 6-8 million (2009), according to unofficial information

Area and operator data: Ministry of Agriculture Bulgaria; market data: Bioselena.

History of organic farming

  • 1987: The Agroecological centre is established at the Agricultural University  Plovdiv
  • 1996: Bioselena, the foundation for organic agriculture, is established
  • 2001: National organic legislation published
  • 2001: First organic certification in Bulgaria
  • 2004: First organic shop in Sofia
  • 2005: Organic food can be found for the first time in supermarkets
  • 2008: Organic boom – more than 1,500 shops selling organic products
  • 2008: First compensatory payments available for organic farming under measure 214 of the national rural development programme
  • 2009 Bulgarian organic farmers’ association established

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total organic area of 39,138 hectares (2012)

  • 45.8 % consists of arable land,
  • 28 % permanent crops, and
  • 20.3 % permanent grassland and grazing areas

The key arable crops are

  • cereals, primarily wheat (7,532 hectares),
  • oilseeds (primarily sunflower and rape; 3,292 hectares), and
  • green fodder from arable land including temporary grasses and grazing areas (2,044 hectares)

The key permanent crops are

  • nuts, primarily walnuts and hazelnuts (5,981 hectares),
  • orchards with temperate fruits (2,155 hectares), and
  • vineyards (2,058)

In addition to organic agricultural area, Bulgaria has a notable organic wild collection area of 473,941 hectares

Market

Both production and the market are growing rapidly, but organic producers continue to mainly export raw materials. An estimated 90 % of the organic products are exported as raw material, whilst 95 % of the organic goods consumed domestically are imported. Almost all supermarket chains offer organic products. The number of specialised shops for organic products is increasing. There are no national statistics for market data. According to the only survey conducted by Bioselena, in early 2009 (unofficial information), the volume of the market for organic products in Bulgaria ranges from EUR 6-8 million.

  • Top-selling products: Baby foods and dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese).
  • Exports and imports: Most of the organic products (about 90 %) are exported to Central and Western European countries, North America, and Japan. There is no official data on exports. About 90 % of organic products marketed in Bulgaria are imported from the European Union.
    There are no imports from third countries.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations directly applicable in Bulgaria. The national ordinance N. 1/2013 regulates the work of the control bodies.
The national organic logo is voluntary and free, but rarely used. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food owns the logo.

Policy support

  • National action plan: Bulgaria has a national action plan for the development of organic farming in Bulgaria 2007-2013 (Националенпланзаразвитиенабиологичнотоземеделие в България 2007-2013).
    More information available at: www.mzh.government.bg/MZH/Libraries/Organic_Farming/NOFAP_FINAL_en.sflb.ashx
    The total budget is approximately EUR 82 million. Its goals include that 8 % of agricultural land should be managed organically by 2013, and 3 % of the food sold in Bulgaria should be organic by 2013.
  • Support under EU rural development programmes: Compensatory payments under agri-environment schemes have been available since 2008. The payments are higher during the transition period and depend on the crop. Lower payments are made for pastures and meadows (EUR 120 per hectare); the highest payments are for orchards and vineyards (EUR 729 per hectare). Payments for organic apiculture are EUR 18.5 per beehive. Additional points are given to organic farmers for investments and for the projects of young farmers.

Extension services for farmers and forest owners (Measure 143) under the national rural development programme have been implemented since the end of 2010. This offers farmers the use of consultancy services. The maximum value of the services supported is EUR 1,500 per farm for a period of two years. 80 % of the sum spent by the farmer is refunded through the programme. Only 83 farmers have applied; 12 consultancy organisations were approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (including Bioselena and Agrarian University of Plovdiv).

Research & advice

Organic research is occasionally undertaken by some NGOs and research institutes as part of international projects. NGOs, private companies and research institutes offer advice on organic production and processing.
Specialised consulting organisations, such as Bioselena, offer advice to farmers. Some of the researchers also offer consulting services. Traders in fertilisers and plant protection products also offer advice. The Agrarian University of Plovdiv offers a facultative academic programme of 30 hours for students, as well as master degree programmes in organic farming. Bioselena offers professional training in organic agriculture for farmers.

Challenges & outlook

Certified organic livestock farms make up only a small share of all organic farms (there are only 18 livestock farms out of 2,754 farms). This creates an imbalance in production, and it diverges from the principles of organic agriculture, which view animals as an essential element for the nutrients cycle on the farm.

Further information

For other relevant websites, see the section on key sector institutions.

Contact

Stoilko Apostolov
Bioselena
36, Vassil Karaivanov Str.
4300 Karlovo
Bulgaria

Tel.: +359 335 92038

headoffice@no-spam.bioselena.com
www.bioselena.com