Spurred by Olives, Organic Farmland Grows in Italy

With a 25,600-hectare increase in surface area from 2021 to 2022, olive groves are the most significant crop in Italy’s expanding organic agricultural landscape.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jul. 13, 2023 14:00 UTC

The amount of agri­cul­tural land cul­ti­vated organ­i­cally in Italy has increased con­sid­er­ably over the past two years, with olive groves mak­ing up the most rel­e­vant crop.

According to a new report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry, the amount of organ­i­cally cul­ti­vated farm­land rose by 7.5 per­cent from 2021 to 2022, an increase from the 5.4 and 1.7 per­cent gains recorded in the pre­vi­ous two annual inter­vals.

More specif­i­cally, 2,349,880 hectares of active Italian farm­land are man­aged through organic farm­ing prac­tices, rep­re­sent­ing 18.7 per­cent of the total.

See Also:Demand for Organic Olive Oil Growing Globally

The gov­ern­ment defines active farm­land as pas­tures, per­ma­nent grass­lands, tree crops and domes­tic gar­dens actively in use.

The European Union’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy includes the expan­sion of organic farm­ing to at least 25 per­cent of agri­cul­tural sur­face area by 2030.

According to the Italian Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea), which pre­sented the report, organic oper­a­tors increased by 8.9 per­cent between 2021 and 2022. Of those 92,779 com­pa­nies, 82,627 are farms.

During the pre­sen­ta­tion, Fabio Del Bravo, a rural devel­op­ment offi­cial at Ismea, said active organic farm­land grew approx­i­mately 160,000 hectares in the period, with olive groves rep­re­sent­ing 16 per­cent of that increase.

The 25,600-hectare increase makes organic olive groves the sin­gle most sig­nif­i­cant crop con­trib­u­tor to the cur­rent organic farm­ing expan­sion in the coun­try. Organic vine­yards grew by 7 per­cent.

According to the report, Tuscany is the Italian region with the largest active organic farm­land, with 36.8 per­cent. Meanwhile, 24.7 per­cent of active farm­land in Puglia, the coun­try’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, is now organic.

Del Bravo said the report’s num­bers show how active farm­land expan­sion and the abil­ity of organic farm­ing enter­prises to com­pete in the mar­ket depend on fund­ing from E.U. and national devel­op­ment pro­grams.

On a side note, the report showed how domes­tic demand for organic food prod­ucts is still lag­ging, with a 0.5 per­cent increase from 2021 to 2022.

Only 1.6 per­cent of con­sumers’ expen­di­ture on organic food goes to organic olive oil and other veg­etable fats.

During the pre­sen­ta­tion, Del Bravo said many fac­tors con­tribute to the slow growth in the value of organic foods sold to con­sumers.

Among them, the most sig­nif­i­cant impact comes from infla­tion, which sits at 6.4 per­cent annu­ally. Inflation is affect­ing house­holds’ spend­ing power and fam­i­lies’ buy­ing pri­or­i­ties.

As the dis­tance between organic food prices and their con­ven­tional coun­ter­parts remains sig­nif­i­cant, fam­i­lies’ choices often do not include organic foods.

The stag­na­tion in demand is one of the most crit­i­cal chal­lenges fac­ing the organic farm­ing sec­tor.

Nevertheless, the report said that the Italian organic farm­ing sec­tor shows extra­or­di­nary vital­ity due to the funds pro­vided by the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy and increas­ing coop­er­a­tion among the var­i­ous organic pro­duc­ers’ orga­ni­za­tions and asso­ci­a­tions.

Additionally, Del Bravo said the Horeca sec­tor (restau­rants, hotels and cafés) are increas­ingly inter­ested in offer­ing organic prod­ucts to their cus­tomers.

During the pre­sen­ta­tion, Italian gov­ern­ment offi­cials con­firmed their com­mit­ment to rein­force the cur­rent devel­op­ment pro­grams and the insti­tu­tional pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion about the health ben­e­fits deriv­ing from the con­sump­tion of organic foods.


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