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Organic Farming in the Slovak Republic 2007

Zuzana Lehocká and Marta Klimeková

General situation in the agricultural sector

The total area of the Slovak Republic is 4‘903‘423 hectares. The climatic conditions of Slovakia vary considerably. For example, the warmest region of Slovakia (the area of Hurbanovo in southern Slovakia) has an average temperature of 9.90 degrees Celsius with 549 mm of annual precipitation, and of the coldest region – Upper Orava in the north of the country - has an annual average temperature of 5.30 degrees Celsius and 781 mm of rain and snow.

Agricultural land covers 49.7 percent of the total area and forest land 40.8 percent. Most of the agricultural area (2‘255‘000 hectares) is arable land (61.7 percent): mainly cereals, fodders and industrial crops are grown on the arable land.

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History of organic farming in the Slovak Republic

The development of organic farming in the Slovak Republic began in 1991 following the experience and development trends in western European countries. The basic regulatory framework for the organic system at that time were the ‚Rules of organic agriculture valid for the territory of the Slovak Republic‘. The Rules were based on the principles and requirements of organic agriculture as defined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

In 1991 there were 31 farms – most of them agricultural cooperatives - managing a total of 14‘773 hectares of all agricultural land. By the end of 2006 the number of organic farms had risen to 265 with a total area of almost 122‘000 hectares of agricultural land. This area represents 5.81 percent of all farmland in the Slovak Republic.

The greatest rise of organically farmed land occurred between 1997 and 1998, when the area increased by 55 percent, and in that year the organic managed area represented, for the first time, more than 2 percent of all farmland in Slovakia.

The ‚Conception of Organic Agriculture in Slovakia as approved by the government of the Slovak Republic in 1995. This fundamental document determined the basic direction of organic agriculture in the Slovak Republic as a horizon until the year 2010. A set of measures was adopted for its implementation.

A basic and significant change in the legislative framework for organic agriculture took place in 1998, when the ‚Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic No. 224/1998 Coll. on Ecological Agriculture and the Production of Organic Foodstuffs was adopted. This law came into effect on October 1, 1998.

Since accession to the European Union in 2004, organic agriculture is being carried out in compliance with Council Regulation 209291, and area based payments are granted under the EU’s Rural Development Programmes.

On 1 January 2009, Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 replaced Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 as amended. Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008 defines the terms of application.


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Support under the Rural Development Programmes

Organic farmers receive financial support throughout the period they manage their land organically. There are several programmes for organic agriculture support. The financial aid is differentiated by the type of crop.

The draft Rural Development Program of the Slovak Republic for 2007 – 2013 proposes higher financial support for organic farming than in the previous period. The financial support for organic farming per hectare is:

  • 4‘139 Slovak Crowns (approximately 130 Euros) for permanent grass cover
  • 28‘884 Slovak Crowns (approximately 903 Euros) for orchards and vineyards.
  • 6‘571 Slovak Crowns (approximately 205 Euros) for arable land
  • 21‘265 Slovak Crowns (approximately 665 Euros) for vegetables, medicinal plants, spices and aromatic plants

Source: Rural Development Program of the Slovak Republic.


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Slovak Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming

In compliance with European policies, the Action Plan for Organic Agriculture in Slovakia has become the new strategic document for organic agriculture.

The reasons to implement the action plan were that some areas of organic farming were still not very well developed and it was necessary to support their further development (advisory service, research, information, processing, promotion and education).

The drafting of this action plan is in line with Action 6 of the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming; here the Commission strongly recommends Member States to make full use within their rural development programmes of the instruments available to support organic farming, for example by developing national or regional Action Plans.


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Organic Farming: Current statistics & land use

In 2009 more than 140'000 hectares of agricultural land were under organic management. Of this, about almost one third is arable land, and two thirds permanent grasslandThe rest is orchards and vineyards.

The area managed organically represented 7.27 % of all farmland in the Slovak Republic.

With respect to the geographical distribution of farms, their highest density is in mountain and sub-mountain regions, mainly in the districts of Čadca, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Svidník, Bardejov, Stropkov, and Humenné, while the there are less organic enterprises in the lowlands. Most of the organic land is under permanent grass cover.

In the Slovak Republic, cereals are the most commonly grown crops (wheat, spelt, rye), however, peas, sunflowers, buckwheat, oat, potatoes and fodders are also cultivated. The cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as vegetables, mainly asparagus, carrot, parsnip, and beetroot is quite successful. The production of organic grapes and fruit is developing. Most of the organic plant production is exported to western European countries. In animal production, sheep and goat husbandry prevail – along with the production of traditional cheese products. Dairy products from cattle and meat are rarely sold as organic.

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Marketing Channels

The main marketing channels are:

  • Farm gate sales
  • Specialised shops (PT Universal)
  • Internet networks
  • Major retailers (Tesco, Billa)

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Inspection and Certification

In the Slovak Republic the system of control and certification is in accordance with the Law No. 421 / 2004.

The Central Control and Testing Institute of Agriculture (UKSUP) is the supervising body.

Naturalis SK Ltd. (accredited according to EN 45 011) was accredited by UKSUP to perform the inspection and certification .  

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Research in organic farming is carried out at the Slovak Research Agricultural Centre – Research Institute of Plant Production – Department of Alternative Plant Production in Piestany. Here, research on organic, integrated, low input farming started in 1994, dealing with topics like the interrelationship of quality production, biodiversity and a clean environment.

Currently, organic farming, integrated farming, and conservation agriculture are experimentally studied and verified. Within these systems the effect of different farming techniques on physical, agrochemical and biological soil indicators changes (soil erosion, soil fertility maintenance or increase, role of soil fauna for protection, arable land protection, EU regulations, soil microorganisms, soil quality, bio indicators) are studied.

Concerning agricultural practice, the research projects are aimed at crop rotations, soil tillage, fertilisation and crop protection. Priority is given to the economically important field crops such as winter wheat, barley, pea, potatoes, clover, etc. Besides the research tasks the department orientates its activities on education activities. The cooperation with national and international institutions and participation in international projects is very important. The initiatives promoting sustainable farming systems and their development are also crucial. The research of alternative farming systems has systematic orientation and is interdisciplinary, and is very specific in comparison with the other agricultural research. Therefore, the researchers are also trying to develop their knowledge and skills through a very close cooperation with practice.

Other institutions working in this area SARC, RIPP, Institute of Agroecology Michalovce and the Slovak Agricultural University in Nitra.

In general, research is mainly orientated on plant production, less on animal wellness and the specific research aimed at vegetables, fruits, and social research does not exist.

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Advisory Service

A specialized advisory service is missing. Advisory services exist within research organisations, which provide individual assistance, provided advisory service or organise seminars, and field days. The Agro Institute in Nitra offers some courses for organic farmers and some further education programs in cooperation with the specialists mainly from the research organisations and universities.

The Institute of Scientific Technical Information for Agriculture provides an advisory service through the information centre but not especially for organic agriculture.

The non-governmental organisations also provide advisory services for their members.

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There is no teaching on organic agriculture in elementary schools. Education at secondary level contains some lectures about organic agriculture. At university level, organic farming is included in the educational programs of the Faculty of Agrobiology and Food Resources at the Slovak Agricultural University in Nitra.

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There are two associations that promote organic agriculture in the Slovak republic:

  • The Association of Organic Agriculture Ekotrend
  • The Slovak Association for Sustainable Agriculture SASA


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For the further development of organic farming in the Slovak Republic, the following is crucial:

  • To ensure flexibility in the implementation of European regulations, so that specific local climatic or geographical conditions;
  • Real policy awareness and involvement;
  • Development of the domestic market;
  • Development of processing and marketing of strategies;
  • Building consumers‘ trust (certification and labelling of organic products);
  • Support of applied research in organic farming, knowledge and information exchange, education and promotion of organic farming;
  • Advisory service and knowledge exchange programmes for farmers, extensionists.

Some factors such as GMO production, food scandals and climate change could endanger organic agriculture development in the Slovak Republic.

Within the last few years a lot has happened in the organic sector in Slovakia, but there are still many areas (greenhouse horticulture, fruit, vegetable, animal husbandry) which are still in the pioneering stage.

In the future, it will be necessary to support all the areas mentioned in this report for the further, successful development of organic farming in the Slovak Republic.

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Zuzana Lehocká and Marta Klimeková
Slovak Agricultural Research Centre


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