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According to the German organic food association BÖLW (Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft e.V.), the organic boom continues unabated: Last year in Germany - by far the most important organic market in Europe - total sales of organically produced food amounted to about 5.3 billion euros. This represents a 15% increase in turnover compared to the previous year. With 14%, the organic specialised trade grew at a similar rate as the overall organic market in 2007. This huge demand would allow for even stronger growth, which, however, is "mainly limited by the shortage of raw materials" (BÖLW). In other words, the gap between the booming organic production sector and the available German products - i.e. between supply and demand - is widening. The increasing demand in Germany has to be met with foreign produce, which is sold, for example, in the 80 organic supermarkets that were newly opened last year alone.'

Wine is an ever bigger topic at BioFach


What is true for the organic market as a whole tends to be evident for organically produced wines as well: The demand for organic wines, which has also been intensified in Germany by the biodynamic trend, can, despite all the joy about several prominent conversions, VDP admissions of organic estates such as Clemens Busch/Mosel and the success of German growths at international tastings, by no means be satisfied at home - quite the contrary. The lone organic leader, Italy (also the largest organic fruit producer), can produce organic wines on about 30,000 ha of arable land for organic cultivation, which are repeatedly sold off at Aldi for 1.99 euros. Organic shops and supermarkets sell fancy labelled organic wines from Spain (approx. 20,000 ha of organic cultivation area) or France (approx. 18,000 ha) by the pallet. Italy, France, Spain: "These three countries mentioned are also the ones from which the largest supply of wine on the German market comes. Current estimates suggest that about three quarters of the wine sold in Germany made from organically grown grapes comes from abroad. As with so many organic commodity groups, Germany is an attractive sales market."
(www.oekolandbau.de Infoportal des Bundesprogramms Ökologischer Landbau in der Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung).

More conversions from conventional to organic farming necessary

With an organic share of vineyards including conversion areas of about 2.5 to 2.8% (2,500 to 2,800 ha), Germany is of course far from being able to meet the current and in the future still increasing demand for organic wines - and here especially German products. Therefore, the organic market offers opportunities that still motivate only a few conventionally working farms to convert. The conversion to organic viticulture is often shied away from - as is generally the case in agriculture - because organic production is, according to all experience, significantly more labour- and personnel-intensive and thus also more expensive. A three-year conversion period therefore requires not only patience until the last traces of fertiliser have disappeared, but above all financial resources and confidence in the future of the farm and in a receptive market. According to a survey by the German Farmers' Association on the conditions for actual conversion, "secure purchase contracts" (69.4%), "higher producer prices for organic products" (63.6%), "greater liquidity to finance the conversion period" (53.7%) and "higher area premiums" (53.7%) were by far the most important criteria. This makes it emphatically clear that the state conversion programmes need to be better funded and existing funds used even more efficiently:

In the corresponding programme of the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Horst Seehofer, the funds were unfortunately considerably reduced in 2007 compared to previous years and concentrated mainly on research and advisory services. "Horst Seehofer has not yet distinguished himself as the world's greatest champion of organic farming in the eyes of the sector," the "ZEIT" recently summed up under the headline "Organic boom missed? A clear line is also not discernible among the federal states: Only a few have consistently supported converting farmers in recent years; the organic premiums per hectare vary - and "an additional increased conversion premium for the first few years is only available in four federal states: North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony".

Against the backdrop of climate change, it would certainly be helpful for an even greater acceptance of conversion and its results among producers and consumers alike to increase the references to the positive, climate-protecting effects of organic agriculture and thus also of organic viticulture, as they were recently pointed out by experts in the journal "Ökologie und Landbau" (1/2008): "Agriculture is partly responsible for global warming through the production of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. However, humus-rich soils can relieve the climate."

In any case, the consumer climate has already clearly improved in the direction of increased demand for sophisticated organic wines, as the world's leading organic trade fair BioFach 2008 - also the largest organic wine trade fair in the world - clearly showed. 347 wine exhibitors from 23 nations presented themselves to an obviously very interested public; the trade accounted for 40% of the visitors. Among the suppliers, Germany was the leader with 47 exhibitors, but the leading organic wine-growing nations Italy (39), Spain (28), Austria (26) and France (25), but also Switzerland, Greece, Chile, Portugal and South Africa, for example, were well represented. At the annual presentation of the International Wine Award at BioFach, the high quality standards of the companies in the top segment were once again evident: of a total of 545 wines tasted, eight wines received the highest award, "Grand Gold". Gold was awarded 21 times; a recommendation was given for 118 wines. The awards clearly showed that with Spain, Austria and Italy - along with Germany - the countries whose cultivation areas for organic wine production have expanded the most in recent years received the most prizes.

Date of BioFach 2009: 19-22.2.2009

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