Home » Country info » Austria » Country report » 2010

Country report - Austria 2010

by Elisabeth Klingbacher

Introduction

Austria holds a leading position in organic farming: In 2010, 16.2 percent of Austria’s farmers cultivate more than 19 percent of the utilised agricultural area in accordance with organic principles.

In absolute figures more than 543'000 hectares of land (alpine pastures included, INVEKOS data) are managed to organic criteria. The number of organic farms remains at the high level of over 22,000.

In relative terms, Austria ranks first in this sector among the European countries (except Liechtenstein).

To top

The history of organic farming in Austria

Organic agriculture in Austria looks back on a long history and its development can be divided into several periods:

  • Foundation stage: 1920s – first organic farms are established (particularly in the southern parts of Austria)
  • Stage of qualitative growth: after the “pioneer years” in the 1960s, the number of organic associations increases in the 1970s to 1980s; organic farmers start to get organised and to establish an organic network.
  • First boom: late 1980s to early 1990s (first official guidelines for organic farming in 1983, first subsidy programs, increasing ecological awareness, …)‏. Throughout these years the fast development of organic farming takes place primarily in western Austria – in grassland areas with traditionally extensive management.
  • Second boom: further fast growth throughout the 1990s – between 1990 and 1995 the number of organic farms increases more than tenfold (marketing via supermarket chains, Austria joins the EU, implementation of the Agri-Environmental Programme – ÖPUL – subsidies)
  • After a short period of stagnation another stage of conversion follows during the years 2001 to 2005. Primarily in eastern Austria more than 70,000 hectares of arable land are converted and managed according to the principles of organic farming.
  • Stage of consolidation
  • In the past few years the extension of organic farming areas slowed down a little, but remained – just as the number of organic farms – at a high level. Currently a certain consolidation and professionalisation of organic production and marketing is noticeable.

Source: Eder, 2006; Groier and Gleirscher, 2005; Tischler, 2009

To top

Statistics

In 2008 Austria more than 20,000 organic farmers (14 percent) cultivated in Austria more than 383,700 hectares (16 percent of the agricultural area – alpine pastures not included) according to the criteria of organic farming.

Since 2009, the alpine pastures have been included into the organic agricultural statistics in order to make the organic data comparable to the overall agricultural statistics. According to this new calculation, in 2009 more than 18 percent of the agricultural land and 15 percent of the farms were organic.

In 2010 almost one fifth of Austria’s agricultural area (19.5 percent) was managed organically, which means that the targeted 20 percent share of organic farming until 2010 has almost been achieved. The Austrian Agriculture Minister highlighted that organic farming must be given a top priority of the Common Agricultural Policy also after 2013.

Source: www.lebensministerium.at

To top

Standards and certification

Austria is a pioneer in the implementation of national organic standards, and was one of the first countries worldwide to set official guidelines for organic farming. In 1989 these decrees were already included as Chapter A 8 in the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus, and in 1991 national guidelines for the organic production of animal products were implemented.

Since Austria joined the European Union in July 1994, the minimum legal standards for organic farming in Austria have been defined by Council Regulation No 834/2007 and 889/2008 (former Council Regulation No 2092/91).

In addition, member states are free to adopt stricter national organic rules. Members of organic farmers’ associations must also comply with (usually stricter or more specific) guidelines set by the corresponding association.

Organic farms are monitored by independent inspection bodies that must be approved by the Ministry of Health and the federal provinces. Inspection bodies must establish a quality management system according to European Standard EN 45011 and are monitored by the Austrian Accreditation Service of the Ministry of Economy. Organic inspection applies to the entire production process – organic farming, processing and trading – and is carried out at least once a year.

The following inspection bodies operate in Austria:

Source: www.lebensministerium.at

To top

Organic agriculture organisations

In Austria more than two out of three organic farmers are members of one of the organic farming associations. The largest association is Bio Austria with about 13,000 members, but several other organic farming organisations, partially working on a regional basis, also play an important role in promotion, marketing and advice.

Bio Austria

Office Linz
Ellbognerstraße 60
A-4020 Linz
Phone +43(0)732/654884
Fax +43(0)732/654884-40

Office Vienna
Theresianumgasse 11/1
A-1040 Vienna
Phone +43(0)1/4037050
Fax +43(0)1/4037050-190

office@no-spam.bio-austria.at
www.bio-austria.at

Biolandwirtschaft Ennstal

Stainach 160
A-8950 Stainach
Phone +43(0)3623/201-16
Fax +43(0)3623/201-17

office@no-spam.bioland-ennstal.at
www.bioland-ennstal.at

Biologische Ackerfrüchte BAF

Alt Prerau 1
A-2164 Wildendürnbach
Phone +43(0)2523/8412

info@no-spam.bioackerfrucht.at
www.bioackerfrucht.at

Demeter Bund

Theresianumgasse 11/1
A-1040 Vienna
Phone +43(0)1/8794701
Fax +43(0)1/8794722

info@no-spam.demeter.at
www.demeter.at

Erde & Saat

Polsing 10
A-4072 Alkoven
Phone +43(0)7274/20169
Fax +43(0)7274/20186

kontakt@no-spam.erde-saat.at
www.erde-saat.at

Förderungsgemeinschaft für gesundes Bauerntum ORBI

Ing. Helga Wagner
Nöbauerstraße 22
A-4060 Leonding

Phone + Fax +43(0)732/675363

www.orbi-bauernladen.at

Freiland - Verband für ökologisch-tiergerechte Nutztierhaltung und gesunde Ernährung

Seidengasse 33/13
A-1070 Vienna

Phone +43(0)1/4088809
Fax +43(0)1/9076313-20

office@no-spam.freiland.or.at
www.freiland.or.at

Verein organisch-biologischer Landbau-Weinviertel

Peigarten 52
A-2053 Peigarten

Phone +43(0)2944/8263
Fax +43(0)2944/8402

Labeling

To enable Austrian consumers to identify organic products at first glance, several organic labels have been created:

To top

"Austria Bio-Zeichen" with indication of origin

The "Austria Bio-Zeichen" may be used by approved organic farmers, processors and trading companies. It guarantees that products showing this label originate from organic farming. In addition, the label certifies that at least seventy percent of all ingredients originate from domestic organic farming.

"Bio-Zeichen" without indication of origin

This label does not refer to the regional origin. Products with this label have also been produced according to organic standards but less than 70% of the ingredients originate from Austrian organic production.

Additionally there are various organic logos from organic associations like Bio Austria, from supermarket chains and discounters, and since July 2010 all Austrian organic products must be additionally labelled with the EU organic farming logo.

Organic market

The organic market in Austria is one of the best developed in the EU and is dominated by conventional supermarket chains and discounters - they cover about two-thirds of annual turnover (the first organic food brands were launched by supermarket chains in 1994).
But wholefood shops have also played an important role in Austria’s organic history. Presently they are expanding and modernising and - especially in urban areas - organic supermarkets are starting to attract new clientele. Another important and growing marketing channel is kitchens/catering in the public and private sector.

Surveys show that about 20% of Austrian organic consumers are responsible for 80% of overall sales. The entry of discounters into organic retailing increases consumers’ awareness of and interest in buying organic as it becomes more affordable.
Organic food purchasing by Austrian households boomed extraordinarily during the first months of 2010. This trend was observed not only in food trade, but also in the direct marketing sector.
Concerning the turnover of organic products, 2010 was one of the most successful years ever.  Current sales figures illustrate that “organic” is a top issue with Austrian consumers. The organic turnover amounted 2010 to 1,12 billion Euros  (+14,1 % to 2009). The  supply  /  demand  ratio  differs  widely  with  the  individual  product groups. The lion’s share of the positive development is centred on milk, fruit and vegetables.
Asked for their motivation to buy organic food, 26% of the interviewees mentioned their health, 11 percent think organic products taste better, and 8 percent purchase these products because they are produced in a way which is particularly environmentally friendly. Those not purchasing organic food say they don’t mainly because of the higher prices of those products. According to RollAMA consumers rely above all on testing seals and quality seals. 13 percent say they rely on indications confirming the Austrian origin of a product (Roll AMA, 2010).
Source: www.lebensmittel.at
As regionality becomes increasingly important, the chance to link regional and organic could have another positive influence on the growing demand for organic products (Liebing, 2008).

To top

Imported versus domestic products

Proportion of domestic produce of all organic food sales50%
Best sold domestic product groups
(in domestic retail)
  1. bread
  2. milk & dairy products
  3. meat
Best sold imported product groups
(in domestic retail)
  1. fruit
  2. vegetables
  3. dry goods (non-perishable)

Most important source countries
  1. Germany
  2. Italy
  3. Spain

Source: Liebing, 2008

To continuously develop the supply side the Austrian organic farmers’ association Bio Austria has launched – in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chambers of Agriculture – the national campaign “Organic seeks Farmers”, to encourage 10,000 additional farmers to switch to organic agriculture (Liebing, 2008).

Austrian organic market data (production quantity for various products according to estimates of Bio Austria) is available for download at: www.bio-austria.at/biobauern/markt/marktdaten_von_bio_austria

To top

State support

Austria’s organically managed area continues to grow but the current demand for organic products often cannot be met.

Organic Farming Action Programme

The Organic Farming Programme of the Ministry of Life was intended to safeguard Austria’s position as the EU’s number 1 country for organic food and to improve marketing strategies and public relations work to further raise the market share of organic products.

The Organic Farming Action Programme is a two to four-year initiative and was first carried out in 2001/2002. As before, the Action Programme for Organic Farming 2008-2010 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management is seen as a political declaration of intent to promote organic farming and its products.

It comprised general requirements and measures to be implemented during the specific years. These measures related in particular to education and training, schools, extension, research, marketing, public relations work, and inspection (quality assurance).

The main objectives of the action plan were:

  • to provide an overall strategy for the development of the organic sector
  • to achieve an organic share of 20% of the agricultural area by 2010
  • to communicate the environmental benefits of organic farming to consumers
  • to enhance the profitability of organic farming.

Several goals of the Action Programme for Organic Farming 2008-2010 have been achieved, but still, all parties involved have to focus on the future progress of organic agriculture in Austria.

The new Austrian Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming 2011-2013 is on the way and soon available for download at: www.lebensministerium.at   

Agri-environmental Programme ÖPUL 2007-2013

ÖPUL is the “Austrian programme to promote agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment, extensive production, and the maintenance of the countryside”. The objective of the Agri-environmental Programme is to ensure that environmental concerns of domestic agriculture are taken account of. Additional costs resp. diminished returns resulting from participation in specific measures are to be compensated by the Agri-environmental Programme. Priorities are above all the protection of soil and waters as well as the maintenance of biological diversity.

ÖPUL 2007-2013 concentrates on about 30 measures. The most important measure to allow Austria to promote its position as organic country no.1 is the measure “Organic farming”.

About 95 percent of all organic farmers participated in the Austrian Agri-environmental Programme ÖPUL.

Source: www.lebensministerium.at

To top

Research in organic food and farming

Federal Research Institutes

University Research Institutes

Private Research Institutes

To top

Training

Most of Austria’s agricultural schools and colleges offer training programmes or individual courses in organic farming within the scope of their curriculum. But the Bioschule Schlägl (www.bioschule.at) is the first and only school in Austria for organic agriculture and forestry.
At university level the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna offers a considerable organic curriculum.

To top

Challenges and outlook

Austria plays a leading role in organic agriculture, and experts still predict an upward trend for the organic market. But to achieve the goal of remaining the EU's number one in terms of share of organic farms and organic area, and to expand organic agriculture in the long term, all relevant players – policy, market, research, 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 professionalisation and sector growth without losing sight of the fundamental ideals and core values of organic agriculture.

To top

References

  • BMLFUW (2011): Grüner Bericht –Bericht über die Situation der österreichischen Land- und Forstwirtschaft. Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna.
  • Eder, M. (2006): Der biologische Landbau in Österreich – eine Erfolgsgeschichte. In: Darnhofer, I; Walla, C. und Wytrzens, H. K. (Hrsg.): Alternative Strategien für die Landwirtschaft. Wien: Facultas, S. 89-100.
  • Groier, M; Gleirscher, N. (2005): Bio-Landbau in Österreich im internationalen Kontext. Band 1: Strukturentwicklung, Förderung und Markt.
  • Liebing, R. (2008): Austria, in: The Specialised Organic Retail Report Europe 2008.
  • Roll AMA 2010.
  • Tischler, K. (2009): Biologische Landwirtschaft in Österreich. Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna.
  • www.bio-austria.at
  • www.lebensministerium.at

To top

Author

Elisabeth Klingbacher
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Austria FiBL
Seidengasse 33-35/13
1070 Wien
Austria
Tel. +43 (0)1 9076313-24
Fax +43 (0)1 9076313-20
elisabeth.klingbacher@no-spam.fibl.org
www.fibl.org/en/austria
Personal homepage

To top

Contact

Elisabeth Klingbacher
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Austria FiBL
Seidengasse 33-35/13
1070 Wien
Austria
Tel. +43 (0)1 9076313-24
Fax +43 (0)1 9076313-20
elisabeth.klingbacher@no-spam.fibl.org
www.fibl.org/en/austria
Personal homepage