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Country report - Italy

by Marta Romeo, Single National Information System on Organic Agriculture (SINAB), and Marie Reine Bteich, Istituto Agronomico Mediterraneo di Bari (IAM BARI), Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM)

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: 1,167,362 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 43,852
    • Organic processors: 9,542
    • Organic importers: 297
    • Organic exporters: no data
  • Retail sales: EUR 1,843 million

Area and operator data: sinab and eurostat; total for the domestic market and marketing channels: nomisma based on associazione nazionale delle imprese di trasformazione e distribuzione di prodotti biologici (assobio); export data: assobio

History of organic farming

  • 1960s: pioneering experiences made in organic agriculture
  • 1970s: organic agriculture begins to take off
  • mid 1980s: cos’ e biologico, the national commission for organic agriculture, is established.
  • 1986: the first italian organic agriculture standards are published
  • 1988: aiab is founded. The green party presents the first proposal for a national law on organic agriculture
  • 1990: the first international conference of organic agriculture in the mediterranean countries,agribiomediterraneo, is held in vignola
  • 1992: federbio – federazione italiana agricoltura biologica e biodinamica, the italian federation of organic and biodynamic agriculture is founded
  • 2000: in collaboration with the italian regions, the ministry of agriculture, food and forestry establishes sinab, the national information system for organic farming. This platform offers information and services to organic stakeholders for the development and promotion of the sector
  • 2008: the 16th organic world congress of the international federation of organic agriculture movements (ifoam) takes place in Modena

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total organic agricultural area

  • 45 % (527,493 hectares) consists of arable crops,
  • 26 % permanent crops (306,663 hectares), and
  • 25 % is permanent grassland and grazing areas (290,700 hectares).

The most important arable crops are

  • green fodder from arable land (255,003 hectares),
  • cereals for the production of grain (including seeds and rice, 210,543 hectares), and
  • dried pulses and protein crops for the production of grain (20,837 hectares).

The main permanent crops are

  • olives (164,488 hectares),
  • vineyards (57,347 hectares) and
  • nuts (30,071 hectares).


The italian market has grown steadily over the past few years, with the financial crisis having no significant effect on it. It is estimated that most of the organic products consumed in the country are produced domestically.

  • Top-selling products: Fruit and vegetables (25 % of the organic market), dairy products (18 %), breakfast cereals and hot beverages e.g. Coffee, tea (12 %) and beverages (10 %). Data: associazione nazionale delle imprese di trasformazione e distribuzione di prodotti biologici (assobio).
  • Market channels: General retailers/supermarkets (27.4 %), specialised organic shops (44.9 %), restaurants and caterers (13.6 %), other channels (14.1 %).
  • Exports and imports: In 2012, 51,667 tonnes of organic products were imported from third countries. The main categories were processed products (14,321 tonnes), cereals (13,074 tonnes) and fresh and dried fruits (10,140 tonnes). Data on exports is not available.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations apply in italy, but there are also additional and provisions. The competent authority is the ministry of agriculture, food and forestry (ministero per le politiche agricole, alimentari e forestali – mipaaf). Two organizations have private standards of national significance that are more restrictive than the eu organic legislation: aiab’s garanzia aiab, certified by icea, ccpb, imc, bios and qcertificazioni codex, and amab’s garanzia amab, certified by imc.
In Italy the eu logo for organic products is used. There is no national logo.

Policy support

  • National action plan: the national plan for organic agriculture and organic produce (piano d’azione nazionale per l’agricoltura biologica e i prodotti biologici) was developed by the ministry of agriculture and forestry policies (mipaaf) in 2005. In 2008, a national programme for the development of organic agriculture and organic produce was launched.
  • Support under the eu rural development programme: direct payments and other types of support are structured in line with the cap 2007-2013. At the national level, the national strategy plan (nsp) for rural development (piano strategico nazionale per lo sviluppo rurale) applies. At the local/regional level, regional rural development programmes exist.
  • Other policy support: special financing for research on organic agriculture at national level (programmi per la ricerca in agricoltura biologica).

Research & advice

Research on organic agriculture in italy is mainly conducted by universities and national private and public research institutes. Research mainly focuses on agricultural techniques for organic systems (25 %), plant protection (19 %) and soil management and fertilisation (18 %). Less research is being done in areas of agroecology (5.8 %) and product processing and storage (4.5 %).

Challenges & outlook

Currently, the main sources for data collection on organic farming in italy are institutions, control bodies, regions and market research companies. With the on-going computerization it will be possible to improve data quality. The organisation of all the information in a data warehouse would improve its efficacy. This will be useful for controlling and surveillance activities, and the avoidance of fraud, especially when it comes to monitoring import activities.

Further information

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


Marta Romeo
SINAB - National Information System on Organic Agriculture
c/o MiPAAF
Via Venti Settembre,
20-00187 Rome
Tel.: (+39) 064 665 6182
Fax: (+39) 064 665 6085


Dr. Marie-Reine Bteich
Istituto Agronomico Mediterraneo di Bari (IAMB)
Via Ceglie, 9
70010 Valenzano
Tel.: (+39) 080 460 6356
Fax: (+39) 080 460 6210

Organic in Europe 2014

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