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Country report - Estonia

For latest report see brochure Organic Farming in Estonia 2014 (3.7 MB).

by Merit Mikk, Centre for Ecological Engineering (CEET) / Estonian Organic Farming Foundation (EOFF)
 
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: 144,149 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 1,478
    • Organic processors: 64
    • Organic importers: No data
    • Organic exporters: No data
  • Retail sales: EUR 20 million (2011) Estimated value

Area data: Agricultural Board, Organic Agriculture Department; market data: TNS Emor and Centre for Ecological Engineering estimates.

History of organic farming

  • 1989: Foundation of the Estonian Biodynamic Association
  • 1997: First Estonian Organic Farming Act
  • 2006: Foundation of the Estonian Organic Farming Platform (uniting all the active organic farming organisations)
  • 2007: First Estonian Organic Farming Action Plan

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total agricultural area,

  • 54 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing areas (78,453 hectares),
  • 44 % is arable land (63,933 hectares), and
  • 1 % is used for permanent crops.

The key arable crops are

  • temporary grasslands (31,415 hectares),
  • cereals (23,626 hectares) and oilseeds (3,065 hectares).

The key permanent crops are

  • berries (1055 hectares),
  • fruits (507 hectares) and
  • medicinal and aromatic plants (not separated by arable and permanent crops, in total 51 hectares).

In addition to the agricultural land, there are almost 130,000 hectares of wild collection areas.

Market

The development of organic processing and marketing has not kept up with developments at the farm level. The main obstacle to sales of locally produced organic food is that processing is under-developed (small number of processors and small production amounts). Therefore a lot of organic raw produce (mostly from animal husbandry) are sold as conventional. However, in 2012 strong growth was also recorded in these areas.

  • Market channels: No official data on market channels exist. Considerable amounts of organic food are sold through specialist organic and health-food shops (more than 40 shops). Direct marketing also has a notable share, but its importance is decreasing. The biggest increase in sales over the past two years is likely to have occurred in conventional stores and supermarkets. Some new marketing channels have appeared (e.g. fresh milk vending machines in supermarkets).
  • Exports and imports: Data on exports and imports are not publicly available. It is estimated that around 70 – 75 % of organic products sold are imported. These are mostly processed products, but also include some vegetables and fruits. Some milk and meat products are imported. A limited number of products are exported. Those sold in the largest quantities are cereals (mostly through the organic farmers’ cooperative Wiru Vili) and meat. Exported amounts are growing every year.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

Estonia applies EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations and is implemented at the national level by the Estonian Organic Farming Act and associated ordinances.

There is a national logo, and most of the Estonian producers use it on their products. The national logo is far better known than the EU organic logo.

Policy support

  • National action plan: The Estonian Organic Farming Action Plan 2007-2013 exists, together with a plan for its implementation (Eesti Mahepollumajanduse Arengukava ja selle rakendusplaan aastateks 2007-2013). It aims to increase the competitiveness of organic farming, increase the market share of organic products, and make local organic food more easily available to consumers. No guarantees were made that all the planned measures in the action plan, or the plan for its implementation could be funded (or implemented), but the Ministry of Agriculture has allocated some money every year. Funds from the rural development programmes and other sources have also been used (often through projects initiated by organic organisations). Almost every year, the Ministry of Agriculture has financed a seminar to evaluate the implementation of the organic action plan. The preparation of the new organic action plan has started.
  • Support under the EU rural development programme: Organic farming support payments have been made since 2000; since 2004 (when Estonia joined the European Union) these have been part of the rural development agri-environment support. The support payments are granted for arable crops (cereals, oil and fibre crops, potatoes, fodder roots, legumes, and temporary grasslands); field vegetables, medicinal and aromatic herbs, fruits and berries; and grasslands (excluding temporary grassland) where at least 0.2 livestock units are kept per hectare. In addition, support is also available for organically kept grazing animals, poultry, pigs and rabbits, and for organic beehives.
  • Other policy support: State support for market development is not especially targeted at the organic sector, but organic farming organisations have been active in applying for it (e.g. to implement promotion activities, organise farmers/processors participation in local fairs, study trips for farmers to different countries).

Research & advice

Only a few research projects exist in the field of organic farming. Most of them are conducted by the Jogeva Plant Breeding Institute, the Agricultural Research Centre and the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

A specialised organic farming advisory system does not exist in Estonia. Advisors are mostly self-employed and connected to the county-level advisory services. There are no advisors specialising purely in organic farming. Organic farmers are offered courses of basic and further training, which meet the requirements of the Ministry of Agriculture and are financed through the rural development programmes. In addition to these courses, other financial resources are available for the organisation of training.

Challenges & outlook

The Estonian organic sector needs to develop organic food processing and boost the domestic organic food supply. Consumers’ interest in organic food has increased considerably, and the organic market has shown quite rapid development in both 2012 and 2013. Interest is also increasing in the catering sector (e.g. restaurants, kindergartens, schools).

Further information

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

Contacts

Merit Mikk
Centre of Ecological Engineering
Ökoloogiliste Tehnoloogiate Keskus
Fr. Tuglase 1-6
51014 Tartu
Estonia
Tel.: +372 742 2051
Fax: +372 742 2746
ceet@no-spam.ceet.ee
www.ceet.ee

Organic in Europe 2014

  • Organic in Europe 2014 - Prospects and Developments
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