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Country report - France 2009

This text was compiled by FiBL and originally published in the FiBL/SIPPO publication "The Organic Market in Europe".

Update: Organic farming in France 2013


In the 1980s, organic agriculture in France was further developed than in other European countries. The first standards for organic agriculture were published in 1972 by the producers’ association Nature & Progrès. In 1981, the French government officially recognized organic farming by creating a national commission responsible for the organization and development of organic farming in France. In 1985, the state logo for organic products, AB (agriculture biologique) was launched. This level of state recognition led to the wide acceptance of organic agriculture in France and across its borders. At the time, France was the most important European supplier of organic products and 40 percent of the European organic land was located in France (Reynaud/Rison 2001).

In November 2001, the state agency Agence Bio was established to develop and promote organic agriculture. Whereas at the beginning of the 2000s development was slow, in 2008 and in 2009 France was among the countries with the highest market growth rates. Also the organic area increased substantially compared with previous years.

Production base (data 2009)

Even though France has had a dynamic organic market since 2005, only 2.5 percent of its agricultural land was organic in 2009 (less than the European Union (EU) average). From 1994 to 2009, the organic farming sector in France demonstrated consistent growth. During this period, the land under organic agricultural management increased by nearly 490 percent. Recent data published by Agence Bio showed that in 2009, 16,446 organic farms were counted, an increase of 23.7 percent compared to 2008 and 677,513 hectares of land were organic (up 16 percent from 2008).

In 2009, 56 percent of the agricultural land was used for arable and permanent crops. The key crop groups were fodder crops (almost 160,000 hectares), cereals (103,000 hectares) and grapes (almost 40,000 hectares). Major relative increases between 2008 and 2009 were noted for grapes and cereals (Eurostat 2010).

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Government support

The French government strongly supports the development of organic farming as a sustainable component of French agriculture. The government makes financial assistance available to farmers who convert farmland to organic production. In 2008, the French Minister of Agriculture published «Agriculture biologique: horizon 2012», the French organic action plan 2008-2012, providing funds for research and development in the organic industry in order to triple the area devoted to organic farming by 2012 (Agence Bio 2010).

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The market

France has, with a population of more than 60 million, one of the largest food markets in Europe. In 2009, the market share of organic products reached 1.9 percent of the total food sales. In just four years, between 2005 and 2009, the turnover of organic food sales nearly doubled from 1.6 to 3 billion euros.

In 2009, the major supermarket chains gained importance compared with the other marketing channels.

In 2009, nearly 45 percent of organic products were bought in major supermarkets (41.7 percent in 2008; and 40 percent in 2005). In 2009, growth was 12 to 15 percent among the specialised shops. Sales are also rising among bakers, butchers, specialised retailers of fruits, vegetables and wine and shops selling frozen products. Direct marketing is also gaining importance.

According to Agence Bio (2010), in 2009, the importance of organic food groups in terms of retail sales value is as follows (share of a product group of the organic food market):

  • 22% milk, dairy products and eggs;
  • 19% groceries (excluding dairy products and fresh fruits and
  • 17% fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • 11% meat;
  • 11% bread and flour;
  • 10% wines;
  • 5% fruits and vegetable juices;
  • 3% delicatessen;
  • 1% sea food;
  • 1% frozen food.

Since 2007, the consumption of organic products has shown a very positive trend. Indeed, in 2009, 46 percent of French people consumed organic products at least once a month, compared with 44 percent in 2008 (and 42 percent in 2007). Twenty-six percent consumed organic products at least once a week and nine percent every day.

The most important motives for buying organic products are the concern for the environment and animal welfare, but hedonistic motives like health and quality are increasingly important.

In 2009, for 79 percent of the consumers the main obstacle to purchasing organic products remains the «high price» (Agence Bio 2009). Habitual buying behaviour of organic products is not so common, and this is the second major obstacle, but this is now changing, as product availability is improving (Agence Bio 2010).

Sales of French organic products outside of France amounted to 190 million euros in 2009. Exports consisted mainly of fruits and vegetables, constituting 36 percent of the exports. Wines made from organic grapes also account for 36 percent of the exports (Agence Bio 2010).

Imports and market requirements

Only a part of French demand for organic products can be met by domestic production. Off-season products and tropical/exotic organic products have ready access to the French market. Organic imports have grown very rapidly since the mid-1990s (Kilcher 2004).

In the beef and sheep, poultry (chicken and eggs) and wine sectors imports are currently very limited. It is expected, that from 2011 onwards, imports for dairy and cereal products will decrease.

Agence Bio (2010) concludes that on average 38 percent (in terms of value) of the organic products consumed in France originate outside of France:

  • 30 percent of the imported products are exotic products like bananas, tropical fruits, coffee, tea, cocoa;
  • 30 percent are related to production for which France has no special advantage: citrus fruits, soybeans, aquaculture, Mediterranean vegetables, sweet and salty groceries;
  • 40 percent are products where France is short of supply even though these products could also be produced in France: grains, milk, pork, fruits and vegetables (fresh or processed).

The share of the latter increased in 2009 as demand grew fast and many of the organic crops were still in the conversion period.

According to Schaer (2008) the most imports in recent years originate from Italy, other EU countries, and North Africa. Imports from Asia are insignificant. Emerging markets and markets in transition that already export EU-certified organic products have good prospects for expanding their exports to France. There is good potential for imports for raw materials and final products from the tropics and the Mediterranean region.

Agence Bio (2010) publishes information on the products and countries on the third country list according to EU Regulation on Organic Production, for which import permission were issued. However, information on actual imported volumes is not available.

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Imports of  products from third countries: Products and countries of origin

  • Essential oils/Medicinal and aromatic plants: Egypt, Bosnia Herzegovina, Morocco, Madagascar, Albania
  • Fresh and dry fruits and vegetables: Morocco, Peru, Turkey, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Turkey
  • Fruits and processes vegetables: Mexico
  • Cereals and industrial crops (oil crops, protein crops, fodder crops): Kazakhstan, Bolivia, United Arab Emirates
  • Animal feed: Brazil, China
  • Oil-based products: Colombia, Tunisia
  • Spices: China, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Peru
  • Cocoa: Ecuador, Madagascar, Sao Tomé and Principe, Vanuatu
  • Tea: China, Japan, Canada, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Brazil
  • Coffee: Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia, Honduras
  • Sugar: Brazil, Paraguay, Cuba, Thailand
  • Honey: China, Canada
  • Aquaculture products: Madagascar, Mozambique, Ecuador
  • Mushooms, Ecuador, China

Source: Ministère de l'Alimentation, de l'Agriculture et de la Pêche (DGPAAT)

Market access provisions

Market access for organic products is regulated by EU regulation 834/2007 on organic farming (see Part C, Chapter 1). The following additional provisions apply in France: The inspections laid down by the EU Regulation on Organic Production are conducted by six private inspection bodies.

France was one of the first European countries to implement a national logo for labelling organic products, the «AB» logo (Agriculture Biologique). It has displaced other private organic labels in France and is the property of the French Ministry of Agriculture.

For the communication, the AB logo is managed by the French agency for organic farming (Agence bio: www.agencebio.org).

The AB logo has become the most important label by which French consumers recognise organic products. The use of the AB logo is permitted after signing a logo-using contract provided that compliance with the requirements of the EU regulation and additional production regulations not implemented by the EU regulation (snail, ostrich, rabbit and aquaculture, (see Ministère de l’alimentation, de l’agriculture et de la pêche (2010) has been confirmed by a control body approved by the authority in the relevant country.

The AB logo may also be used for imported organic products if the requirements of the EU production regulations are met.

The import of organic products from third countries is regulated by the EU Regulation on Organic Production. Applications for import permits for organic products have to be issued by the importing company to the French Ministry of Agriculture (MAP DG PAAT; address: Bureau des signes de qualité et de l’agriculture biologique, 3 rue Barbet de Jouy, F- 75349 Paris 07 SP, http://mesdemarches.agriculture.gouv.fr/article.php3?id_article=153)

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  • Agence Bio (2010): Chiffres clés 2010. Agence Bio, Montreuilsous-Bois. Available at www.agencebio.org
  • Agence Bio (2010): Les préparateurs et distributeurs de produits biologiques en 2009. Agence Bio, Montreul-sur-Bois. Available on www.agencebio.org/pageEdito.asp?IDPAGE=120&n2=130
  • Agence Bio (2009): Baromètre de consommation et de perception des produits biologique en France 2009. Agence Bio, Montreuil-sous-Bois. Available at www.agencebio.org/upload/pagesEdito/fichiers/barometreconso_AgencebioCSA_2009.pdf
  • Eurostat (2010): Eurostat: Organic farming statistics. Land area, operators. Various Years. The Eurostat homepage, Eurostat, Luxemburg. Available at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/agriculture/data/databaseportal/page/portal/agriculture/data/database
  • Kilcher, Lukas et al. (2004): The Organic Market in Switzerland and the European Union. Overview and market access information for producers and international trading companies. Sippo, Zürich and FiBL, Frick
  • Ministère de l’alimentation, de l’agriculture et de la pêche (2010) : Cahier des charges concernant le mode de production d'animaux d'élevage et complétant les dispositions des règlements (CE) n° 834/2007 du Conseil et (CE) n° 889/2008 de la Commission. Homepage of the French Ministry of Agriculture agriculture.gouv.fr. Available at http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/ccf__janvier_2010-homologue.pdf
  • Schaer, Burkhard (2008): France. In: Specialised Organic Retail Report. Practical Compendium of the Organic Market in 27 European Countries. ORA, Vienna, EKOZEPT, Montpellier/Freising, Biovista, Ettlingen

SIPPO & FiBL 2011: The Organic Market in Europe


Nathalie Rison Alabert
Agence Bio
6, rue Lavoisier
93100 Montreuil-sous-Bois
Tel. + 33 1 48 70 48 30
Fax +33 1 48 70 48
E-mail contact@no-spam.agencebio.org
Internet www.agencebio.org