At a glance
- The share of area under organic farming of agricultural land increased from 2.1 % to 8.2 % from 1996 to 2017.
- The Federal Government aims to increase the proportion of organically cultivated areas to 20 % by 2030.
- At the growth rate of recent years, this aim will still take decades to achieve.
Conventional intensive agriculture causes a range of environmental impacts and is partly responsible for a loss of biodiversity. Organic agriculture, on the other hand, is a more environmentally sustainable and ecologically beneficial type of management. The aim is to close nutrient cycles as far as possible and to manage in harmony with nature.
Organic farming does not use any mineral fertilisers. A range of crop rotations with intercropping maintain and support soil organisms and soil fertility. Avoiding the use of synthetic chemical pesticides enhances biological diversity on agricultural land. Species-appropriate animal husbandry serves animal welfare and ensures acceptance by general public. Organic agriculture therefore has a pioneering role in sustainable land management.
Assessing the development
The proportion of organically managed areas has risen continuously over the last 30 years. The share has increased from 2.1 % to 8.2 % between 1996 and 2017. Regarding the last few years, the total area of organic farming has shown a small but steady increase. Even though the income perspective of organic farms has improved in recent years due to a high demand on organic food, organic farming is still not sufficiently competitive. The reason for this is that the sale of organic food is not able to cover the additional costs associated with organic farming. Also, profits often are not sufficient to allow farms to compete with cheaper import commodities or to pay the high rents in some regions.
As part of both the German Sustainable Development Strategy (BReg 2016) and the German National Strategy on Biodiversity (BMU 2007) the Federal Government aims to increase the proportion of organically cultivated areas to 20 % (BReg 2016 and BMU 2007). According to the latest coalition agreement, this target shall be met by 2030. However, Germany is still a long way from achieving this aim. If the share of area continues to develop as slowly as it has over the last six years, the target will only be reached in several decades.
Additional effective steps are required if the aim is to be reached within the foreseeable future. Planning reliability and adequate continuous funding are key requirements for encouraging farmers to convert to and continue with organic farming.
To qualify as an area of organic farming requires certification under the EU Regulation on organic production (EC No. 834/2007). The Federal States collect the data and the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food publishes the complete figures annually. Along with data on the total agricultural area, the percentage area of organic farming is published annually in the ‘Statistisches Jahrbuch über Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten’ of the BMEL (BMEL n.d, in German only). A slightly different data set is used by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany for the German Sustainable Development Strategy indicator. Due to methodological differences, this discloses a slightly lower share of organic farming areas within the total utilised agricultural area in Germany.
More detailed information: 'Ökologischer Landbau' (in German only).