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Country report - Austria

by Elisabeth Klingbacher, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

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: 533,230 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 21,843
    • Organic processors: no data
    • Organic importers: no data
    • Organic exporters: no data
  • Retail: EUR 1064.7 million (2011)

Area and operator data: Austrian Ministry of Life (Lebensministerium); market data: Organic Retailers Association (ORA).

History of organic farming

  • 1920s: The first organic farms are established
  • 1979: Foundation of Ernte für das Leben, the largest organic farming association at that time
  • 1990s: Organic sector expansion (increasing ecological awareness, marketing via supermarket chains, implementation of the Austrian agri-environment programme)
  • 2004: Foundation of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) Austria
  • 2005: Foundation of Bio Austria, Austria’s largest organic farmers organization

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total organic area of 533,230 hectares

 

  • 63.1 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing area,
  • 35.7 % arable land and
  • 1.2 % permanent crops.

The key arable crops are cereals (97,178 hectares)

 

  • green fodder from arable land including temporary grasses and grazing areas (53,899 hectares) and
  • oilseeds (14,586).

The key permanent crops are

  • grapes (4,259 hectares),
  • apples (978 hectares), and
  • berries (265 hectares).

Market

The organic market in Austria is dominated by conventional supermarket chains and discounters which account for about two-thirds of the annual turnover. Specialised organic shops also play an important role and are expanding and modernising their premises, while organic supermarkets are attracting new customers. Another important and growing marketing channel is catering, in both the public and private sectors.
 

  • Market channels: Distribution comprises general retailers (78.9 %), organic retailers (15.1 %) and direct sales (6 %). The data are from 2011, Organic Retailers Association (ORA).

Standards, legislation, organic logo

The EU legislation on organic farming, other regulations and Chapter A 8 of the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus (Austrian food codex) apply.
In addition to the code number of the control agency and the logo of the European Union (EU), the AMA label for organic farming may be printed on the product. This label exists in two variations:
The label Austria Bio-Zeichen (with indication of origin) may be used by approved organic farmers, processors and trading companies. It guarantees that products showing this label originate from organic farming and that at least 70 % of all ingredients originate from domestic organic farming
The label Bio-Zeichen (without indication of origin) does not refer to the regional origin. Products with this label have been produced according to organic standards but less than 70 % of the ingredients originate from Austrian organic production
Additionally there are various organic logos of organic associations such as Bio Austria and from supermarket chains and discounters.

Policy support

  • National action plan: The Organic Farming Action Plan of the Ministry of Life, www.lebensministerium.at is intended to improve marketing strategies, and to undertake public relations work to further increase the market share of organic products. The most recent Organic Farming Action Programme (2008 – 2013) (Bio-Aktionsprogramm 2008 – 2013) includes the following goals:
    • All products produced according to organic farming criteria are marketed as organic products.
    • Capacities are created enabling the demand for organic foods to be satisfied predominantly from Austria.
    • The market share is increased further, especially for organic products for which there is less demand (for instance meat and meat products).
    • The production of organic products which are not yet available in sufficient quantities (such as fruit and vegetables) is stimulated.
    • The public are better informed about the environmental services provided by organic farming and students of agricultural schools are provided with more comprehensive knowledge about organic farming.
  • Support under EU rural development programmes: The Austrian Agri-environmental Programme (Österreichisches Programm zur Forderung einer umweltgerechten, extensiven und den natürlichen Lebensraum schützenden Landwirtschaft OPUL) aims to ensure that the environmental impacts of domestic agriculture are taken into account. OPUL 2007-2013 operates through approximately 30 measures. From the perspective the Austrian government the Organic Farming measure is seen as important to maintain Austria’s position as the leading country for organic farming, in terms of total share of organically managed agricultural land.

In 2011, more than 20,000 organic farmers received compensatory payments under the national measure Organic farm management amounting to EUR 99.6 million. Altogether, some EUR 168 million, or 30 % of the total OPUL funds, were paid to organic farmers.

Research & advice

The main institutions engaging in research on organic agriculture are FiBL Austria, the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, the Agricultural Research and Education Centre Raumberg-Gumpenstein www.raumberg-gumpenstein.at and the Organic Research Austria (Bio Forschung Austria) www.bioforschung.at. Advice, training courses, and technical information for practitioners are provided by Bio Austria, the regional chambers of agriculture, and FiBL Austria.

Challenges & outlook

Austria plays a leading role in organic agriculture, and experts predict an upward trend for the organic market. However, in order to achieve the goal of maintaining the proportion of organic farms and organic area, and to expand organic agriculture in the long term, all relevant players, including policymakers, market players, researchers, producers, and consumers need to cooperate. The future poses several challenges for organic agriculture as a forward-looking and sustainable strategy for society. It will be important to accomplish the balancing act between greater professionalism and sector growth without losing sight of the fundamental ideals and core values of organic agriculture.

Further information

For other relevant websites, see the sections on key sector institutions and research & advice.

Contact

Elisabeth Klingbacher
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
Doblhoffgasse 7/10
1010 Vienna
Austria
Tel.: +43 0190 763 1335
Fax: +43 0190 763 1320
elisabeth.klingbacher@no-spam.fibl.org

www.fibl.org