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Country report - France

by Elisabeth Mercier, Agence BIO (Agence Francaise pour le Developpement et la Promotion de l‘Agriculture Biologique)

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: 1,032,941 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 24,425
    • Organic processors: 8,785
    • Organic retailers: 3,556
    • Organic importers: 179
    • Organic exporters: no data
  • Retail sales: EUR 4173 million

Data: Agence Bio

History of organic farming

  • 1930s to 1970s: Some pioneers are active, more and more organisations are created, promoting organic farming (among farmers, medical doctors, and consumers)
  • 1959: The agronomist Jean Boucher and the grain dealer Raoul Lemaire develop the Lemaire-Boucher method, which uses a kind of seaweed, lithothamne, to fertilise soil. The first group of organic farmers is founded (GAB)
  • 1964: Creation of Nature & Progres
  • 1972: Foundation of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in Versailles
  • 1976: Foundation of SYNABIO, the National Union of Organic Companies serving the organic farming sector
  • 1978: Creation of FNAB, the National Federation of Organic Farming
  • 1980: First recognition of agriculture without synthetic chemicals and fertilisers in a law
  • 1982: Creation of ITAB, the Technical Institute of Organic Farming
  • 1985: Creation of the Agriculture Biologique (AB) mark, the logo for organic products
  • 1998: Plan Riquois, the first multi-year plan for the development of organic farming
  • 2001: Creation of Agence BIO, the French Agency for Development and Promotion of Organic Farming
  • 2008-2012: Plan to develop organic farming by 2012 launched
  • 2013-2017: Action plan, Plan Ambition Bio 2017

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total 1,032,941 hectares of organic agricultural land (2012)

  • 36.8 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing areas,
  • 48.6 % arable land,
  • 8.7 % permanent crops,
  • 0.5 % aromatic and medicinal plants (annual and permanent), and
  • 5.4 % other uses.

The key arable crops are

  • green fodder from arable land (281,930 hectares),
  • cereals (133,195 hectares), and
  • oilseeds (27,098 hectares).

The key permanent crops are

  • grapes (64,801 hectares) and
  • fruits (20,000 hectares).


The organic market more than doubled between 2007 and 2012.

  • Top-selling products: Dry grocery products, canned fruit and vegetables, and oils (21.2 % of the organic market, EUR 848 million), milk, dairy products and eggs (20.5 %, EUR 822 million), and fruit and vegetables (16.5 %, EUR 661 million).
  • Market channels: General retailers (45.6 %), specialised organic retailers (34.1 %), small shops,such as bakeries and butchers (4.4 %), direct sales (11.8 %), catering (4.0 %).
  • Exports and imports: Wine, selected categories of fruit and vegetables (cabbages,apricots, salads, nuts), and high value products (french specialties and delicatessen).

The main imported products are

  • exotic goods (coffee, cocoa, bananas),
  • citrus fruits,
  • durum wheat,
  • rice,
  • oilseeds (especially soya),
  • protein crops,
  • a complementary range of fruit & vegetables (tomatoes, onions), and
  • grocery products.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations apply. There are also special French specifications for rabbits, snails, ostriches, pet food and restaurants.

There is a French logo, the AB mark, which is owned by the French Ministry of Agriculture which is used according to the AB mark rules.

Policy support

  • National action plan: The action plan Ambition Bio 2017 has the general goals of doubling the proportion of land farmed organically by the end of 2017, and promoting consumption of organic products. There are six main areas of activity: developing production; strengthening the organic food chain; developing domestic consumption and exports; strengthening research and the dissemination of results; training actors in the organic food chain; and adapting regulations.
  • Support under the EU rural development programme: Compensatory payments are available for the conversion and maintenance of organic farms.
  • Further policy support is given for the promotion of organic farming, food chain development, and research and extension services.

Research & advice

The coordination of research on organic farming is carried out by the Technical Institute of Organic Farming (ITAB) and the French Agronomic Research Institute (INRA).

Advice is provided by several organisations.

Challenges & outlook

Current challenges include the need to ensure solid development, with a good balance between supply and demand, the need to increase the supply of oilseeds and protein crops, and the need on the part of consumers and the food sector for more information, and for related promotional activities.

Further information

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


Elisabeth Mercier
Agence BIO (Agence Francaise pour le Developpement et la Promotion de l‘Agriculture Biologique)
6 rue Lavoisier
93100 Montreuil-sous-bois
Tel.: (+33) 148 704 830
Fax: (+33) 148 704 845

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