Organic Agriculture in Italy 2011

An Expert's View about Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Italy

Posted on: 30 Nov 2011

Organics are an important and growing sector in Italian agriculture. In recent years, domestic purchases of organic products have shown an increase. A survey made by ISMEA (Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market) in 2010 showed a growth of 11.6 percent in purchases of organic products in Italy since 2009.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY Voluntary Public - Date: 11/8/2011 GAIN Report Number: IT1152 Italy Post: Rome Organic Agriculture in Italy 2011 Report Categories: Organic Products Approved By: Jim Dever Prepared By: FAS Rome Staff Report Highlights: Report is an update of FAS Rome GAIN IT8019. Contents I. General Information ........................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. II. Organic Production in Italy ................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. III. Organic Consumption in Italy .............................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Organic Prices ................................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined. Organic Distribution Channels .......................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Organic School Canteens ................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. IV. Organic Trade in Italy ......................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Organic Certification ....................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Certification for the EU .............................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Certification for the U.S. ............................................ Error! Bookmark not defined. Import Procedures for U.S. Products ................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Export Procedures for Italian Products to the U.S. ............... Error! Bookmark not defined. List of major organizations concerning organic sector, production, information, etc. ..... Error! Bookmark not defined. List of accredited certifying agents in Italy that can certify for the USDA National Organic Program?????????????????????????????????????????????????? Error! Bookmark not defined. I. General Information Organics are an important and growing sector in Italian agriculture. In recent years, domestic purchases of organic products have shown an increase. A survey made by ISMEA (Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market) in 2010 showed a growth of 11.6 percent in purchases of organic products in Italy since 2009. Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, dairy products and nonalcoholic drinks represent alone half of organic food sales in Italy. The term ?biologico? in Italy describes what is known as ?organic? agriculture in the United States. II. Organic Production in Italy The Italian organic sector follows EU organic standards and applies EC Regulation 834/07 on organic production and processing methods, labeling, marketing, inspection, and import requirements. The latest data released by the Italian National Information System on Organic Agriculture (SINAB) on organically cultivated land report a stable trend for 2010 with 1.113 million hectares. Italy leads Europe in the number of certified organic producers (47,663) and is second to Spain for cropland. The Italian organic industry mainly produces grains, olive tree, fruits (including shell fruit), vineyards, citrus fruit, and vegetables. Overall, organic livestock production has remained steady, with the exception of the 2008 decline in sheep production and the recent steep growth of organic poultry production. Fig. 1. Number of Organic Farms and Organic Cultivated Land Area in Italy 1990-2010 Source: SINAB. Fig. 2. Organic Area (hectares) in Italy by Crop from 2007 to 2010 2007 2008 2009 2010 Grain 241,430 231,569 251,906 194,974 Industrial Crops 25,210 15,340 14,842 14,864 Vegetables 39,803 29,825 30,275 27,920 Forage Plants 358,610 205,758 179,439 197,774 Fruits 40,221 25,856 23,318 22,196 Citrus 22,062 24,531 32,106 23,424 Olives 109,992 114,472 139,675 140,748 Grapes 36,684 40,480 43,614 52,273 Pasture 219,438 224,601 170,801 189,864 Source: SINAB The table below shows the number of individual animals within each organic livestock group from 2006-2010. Fig. 3. Organic Livestock Production (head) Animals 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Cattle 222,725 244,156 216,476 185,513 207,015 Pigs 29,736 26,898 34,014 25,961 29,441 Sheep 852,115 859,980 1,007,605 658,709 676,510 Goats 90,591 93,876 83,411 74,500 71,363 Poultry 1,571,310 1,339,415 2,157,201 2,399,885 2,518,830 Bees(#in Hive) 85,489 112,812 102,280 103,216 113,932 Source: SINAB III. Organic Consumption in Italy Italian consumption of organic products continues to grow, and is valued at around ?3 billion. On average, Italians spend ?25 each per year on organic products. Italians view organic products as ?healthier? and ?safer? than traditional ones, and therefore, are willing to pay the price premium. Fig 4. Household consumption of various categories of organic products VAR. % VAR. % JAN-NOV?10 / JAN- 2009/2008 NOV?09 Fresh or processed produce 26.6% 5.0% Dairy -1.9% 12.2% Breakfast products -2.7% 18.6% Drinks 5.7% 10.6% Eggs 21.8% 7.7% Bread, substitutes, pasta, 8.7% 13.5% rice Baby products -15.7% 36.1% Oils -3.3% 8.1% Honey 14.0% 21.4% Frozen products 4.5% -4.4% Other products 11.0% 17.7% Total Organic Products 6.9% 12.1% *Data for 2009 is only from the first half of the year Source: SINAB Organic Prices The price premium for organic products varies considerably by product. The table below shows the percent change in price from 2010-2011 of both organic and conventional produce. Fig. 5. Percent Difference in Price of Organic vs. Conventional Produce from 2010-2011 Organic Conventional Vegetables Artichokes 106.3% -6.9% Fennel 70.0% 22.6% Potatoes 15.8% 62.9% Zucchini -29.2% -46.0% Cauliflower 0.0% -10.1% Fruit Oranges 87.5% 48.6% Clementine 0.0% --- Pears --- 25.4% Kiwi -28.3% 17.2% Lemons 10.7% -4.7% *Percent Change from March 2010 to March 2011 Source: ISMEA Organic Distribution Channels Organic products are distributed in Italy through three major channels: wholesalers, large supermarket chains, and specialty stores. The table below shows consumption trends of organic products in Italy through different types of stores. Fig. 6. Percent Change in Domestic Consumption of Organic Products by Distribution Channel % Change 2009/2008 % Change 2010/2009 Grocery stores 5.4% 3.7% Big supermarkets 13.5% 18.2% Traditional stores -40.9% 29.3% Discount stores 15.7% 14.9% Other stores -8.9% 4.2% Source: ISMEA Organic School Canteens Following the 2000 Italian Finance Law, which recommended the adoption of organic meals in public administration canteens, 26% of organic wholesale purchases were made by communal canteens and schools. This law has helped increase the number of schools that choose to serve organic food. Figure 7 and 8 represent the number of organic school canteens in the different regions of Italy. Fig. 7. Number of Organic School Fig. 8.Number of Organic School Canteens Map Canteens table Source: Bio Bank Figure 9 illustrates the increase in the number of organic school canteens in Italy from 1996 to 2010. Fig. 9. Organic School Canteen Trend Source: Bio Bank IV. Organic Trade in Italy Official intra-EU organic trade data is difficult to track. The presence of free trade agreements within EU Member States (as well as between non-EU countries with equivalency standards) limits the availability of official data. However, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture reports that in 2010 Italy imported from extra-EU countries 74,000 tons of organic goods. Cereals are mainly imported from Canada, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Netherlands, fruits from South America and vegetables from Central America. Italy is a net exporter of organic food (mainly processed) with most of its ?900 million production shipped to foreign markets. The majority of the exports are shipped to other EU Member States (mainly Germany), the United States and Japan. Fig. 10. Import/Export of organic products in Italy: 2011 survey on 567 import/export firms. Source: Federbio 2011 According to a survey made by Federbio, Italian exports outside Europe are limited to processed organic food, with irrelevant exceptions. Fruit (especially citrus) and vegetables are exported almost exclusively to European countries (both EU and non-EU). The United States and Canada import more than half of the Italian organic exports of wine. Organic Certification Italy and the United States currently do not have an equivalency agreement for organic products. Presently a product that is USDA Organic certified is not necessarily considered organic in Italy and vice versa. An American organic product must be certified EU Organic to be sold in Italy. The USDA Organic label can stay on the product, however, if it is not certified EU Organic, it will not be sold in the organic section of supermarkets, but will instead be sold next to the conventional products. Certification for the EU In order to be recognized as an organic producer in EU, a farmer has to be subject to a two years long transformation process from traditional to organic production. During this period, inspections can be done without notice, in order to check the conformity with the required standards. After two years, the production can be considered ?organic,? but inspections will still be held at least once a year. The responsibility of controlling the coherency between the organic production and EU standards falls on single State Members, which can delegate to specific organizations, both public and private. Organic productions, in order to be certified as such, must follow specific rules. Although the legislation is very specific, it could be summarized in a few, focal points: Wide crop rotation as a prerequisite for an efficient use of on-site resources Prohibition of parallel production of organic and non-organic agriculture on the same farm unit Very strict limits on chemical synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, livestock antibiotics, food additives and processing aids and other inputs Absolute prohibition of the use of genetically modified organisms Taking advantage of on-site resources, such as livestock manure for fertilizer or feed produced on the farm Choosing plant and animal species that are resistant to disease and adapted to local conditions Prohibition of use of any substance not clearly specified in the EU regulations. Raising livestock in free-range, open-air systems and providing them with organic feed Using animal husbandry practices appropriate to different livestock species The EU allows the use of antibiotics for the treatment of sick animals (when all other methods fail). Although every State Member has the possibility to apply a more restrictive legislation than the communitarian one on organic production, the current Italian situation is characterized by the mere adoption of European regulations. Labeling in the EU Organic products are marked with a specific label, which is uniform throughout the whole EU. All EU Produced packaged organic products must apply the label, but it is optional for imported products. EU organic logo Detailed regulations can be found in the EU website: Certification for the U.S. As for the European Union, the production of organic food is regulated also in the U.S. In order to be able to define a product ?organic? and apply on it the organic label, this must be certified as such by the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP). Although the principles of what is organic are shared between EU and the U.S., there are some minor differences. The main are: the possibility to set parallel productions of organic and conventional agricultures on the same farm unit the absolute impossibility to use antibiotics for curing feedstock the different regulation on the use of materials for the organic production, which allows farmers to use any natural input that is not specifically prohibited and prohibits the use of any synthetic one that is not specifically allowed. The USDA inspects and certifies organic standards through private and state agencies. Small farmers with less than $5,000 in organic sales can avoid the certification process, but they are still required to comply with the government standards. Individuals or companies who sell or label a product as organic when they know it does not meet USDA standards, can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation. Labeling in the U.S. If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it's produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food's ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it. Products that are completely organic ? such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods ? are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on their package labels, depending on the number of organic ingredients: 100 percent organic. Product that is completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. Organic. Product that is at least 95 percent organic. Made with organic ingredients. Product contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal cannot be used on these packages. Products certified 95 percent or more display this USDA organic sticker. Import Procedures for U.S. Products To import U.S. organic products to the EU, importers must work through their designated member state authority and obtain an import authorization. These authorizations are granted on a case- by-case basis, subject to the member state?s review of two main elements: the organic standards and inspection measures applied by the certifier of the product, and the certifier?s compliance with EN 45011 or ISO Guide 65. The importer must demonstrate that the product was produced according to EU standards and provide evidence that the certifier is accredited to EN 45011/ISO 65 by an authority recognized by the member state. In the U.S., the USDA?s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) has been designated as the competent authority to accredit U.S. organic certifiers for compliance with ISO 65. Certifiers of U.S. organic products must use the EU certificate format for products to be exported to the EU. An original certificate must accompany the good and it will be verified at the border by the member state authorities. Goods are not released until the authorities have verified that a valid import authorization has been granted for the consignment. Member states have several options for implementing the regulation, which means that procedures may differ from member state to member state. Export Procedures for Italian Products to the U.S. Italian organic exports to the U.S. must be certified as such. In the ?Certifier Lists? section of this report, there is contact information of the six accredited certifying agents in Italy that certify for the USDA National Organic Program. List of major organizations concerning organic sector, production, information, etc. The CRA (Consiglio per la Ricerca e Sperimentazione in Agricoltura) is a national research institute that operates under the supervision of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. Its website is SINAB (Sistema d?Informazione Nazionale sull?Agricoltura Biologica), was developed for the collection and distribution of statistics on the Italian organic sector. SINAB is run by IAM.B (the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari), a center for post-graduate training and applied scientific research. More information is available at and These three institutes also provide various statistics on organic agriculture in Italy. Their websites are,, AIAB (Associazione Italiana per l?Agricoltura Biologica) is a non-profit organization and is the largest organic farming association in Italy. In 2000, AIAB co-founded ICEA, an organic certifier/control body for the AIAB quality seal ?Garanzia AIAB.? ICEA is an accredited organic certifier by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. AIAB?s website is: SINCERT (Sistema Nazionale per l?Accreditamento degli Organismi di Certificazione e Ispezione) is a non-profit organization recognized by the Italian government. It accredits organic certifiers in conformance to UNI CEI EN 45011. SINCERT?s website is IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) is an international umbrella organization of organic agriculture. IFOAM?s members include farmer organizations and international certification agencies. One of IFOAM?s goals is the development of a universal standard for organic agriculture. The IFOAM Basic Standards for Organic Production and Processing and IFOAM Accreditation Criteria for Bodies Certifying Organic Production and Processing have served as guidelines for private and governmental agencies in setting regional standards. IFOAM?s website is In August 2005, a consortium of Italian certification bodies developed the ?Italian Organic Standards,? a set of regional organic standards that are consistent with the IFOAM Basic Standards and Council Regulation 2092/91. List of accredited certifying agents in Italy that can certify for the USDA National Organic Program Bioagricert Via Facini, 10 40033 Casalecchio di Reno (BO), Italy Contact: Dr. Riccardo Cozzo Phone : +39 051 6130512 E-mail : Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited: 1/8/03 Bios s.r.l. International Office Via Monte Grappa, 37/C 36063 Marostica (VI), Italy Contact : Mariella Sandini Phone : +39-0424-471125 Fax. +39-0424-476947 E-mail: Website: Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited: 05/23/05 CCPB - Consorzio Per Il Controllo Dei Prodotti Biologici Via J Barozzi 8 40126 Bologna, Italy Contact: Roberto Setti Phone: +39 516089811 E-mail: U.S. Contact for Business in Europe: Donato Grosser Phone: 212-661-0435 E-mail: Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited 12/9/02 ICEA - Instituto per la Certificazione Etica ed Ambientale Via Strada Maggiore, no 29 40125 Bologna (BO), Italy Contact: Daniela Caretto or Alessandro Pulga Phone: +39 051-27.29.86 E-mail: Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited: 04/13/03 Istituto Mediterraneo Di Certificazione (IMC) Via C Pisacane, 32 60019 Senigalia (AN), Italy Contact: Giorgio Maria Pittalis Phone: +39 (0)717928725 E-mail: or Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited: 7/21/03 Suolo E Salute S.R.L Via don Minzoni, S 40037 Sasso Marconi Bologna, Italy Contact: Bruno D'Aprile Phone: +39 051-6751265 E-mail: Website: Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling Accredited: 2/4/03
Posted: 30 November 2011

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