The organic questions we are not asking

Dr. Gideon Fadiran
5 min readFeb 22, 2022

How many times have you gone out grocery shopping and been forced to buy non-organic products that are not included in your shopping list? Worse off, how many stores do you have to visit to tick off more of the organic products on your shopping list? The above are not the organic questions I have in mind, rather, my reality! Let’s dive into the organic questions I have.

Question 1: How far are we from accessing a wider range of organic products? That is, what is the percentile share of the organic farming area to total utilised agricultural area?

To have a glaring picture, below is a figure showing the share of the organic farming area in selected European countries as a percentage of the total utilised agricultural area. Between 2015 and 2019, the majority of the countries have witnessed an increase in the share of organic agricultural area, but at a significantly low hike over the 4 years gap. Overall, the percentile share for the EU members is under 30%, with the majority under 10%. Regionally, the EU-28 member states recorded an average of 7.9% of organic agricultural area to total utilised in 2019. That’s a far fetch from the minimum EU target of 25% organic agricultural share by 2030.

Data sourced from Europa

Within the European member states, Austria has the highest share of organic agricultural area, sitting at 25.3% as of 2019, followed by Estonia (22.3%) and Sweden (20.4%). At the bottom spot, there is Malta with a 0.5% share in 2019. Second to the last in the EU-28, is Ireland, recording a share of 1.63% in 2019, down from 1.65% in 2015. I’m currently in Ireland and my experience motivated the questions presented to you today. Could this low organic farming rate be a factor for my shopping experience? Or maybe not! I’ve visited the top 5 grocery stores in Ireland, which account for 91% of the country’s grocery market share, as of 23/01/2022. According to my shopping preferences, Dunnes (23.1% market share) is my number 1 spot to access a wider range of my organic products, although still far from accessing a more complete option, relative to the store size. Dunnes has a dedicated organic fruit and meat/chicken section. Dunnes also offer a good voucher giving back structure after every purchase above x amount. It definitely works with making me a dedicated customer and probably a factor to driving the store to the number one (1) spot in the country, overtaking Tesco (22.1%) and SuperValu (22.2%) since 09/09/2018.

On a more economic note, the agricultural sector contributed 1.3 % to the EU’s GDP in 2020. This may look small, but its linkage to daily food consumption and human health is significant. Statistically, according to worldbank sources, ‘agriculture, forestry, and fishing’, contributed 1.66% value-added of GDP — European Union in 2020. The agricultural value to GDP stood at 2.2% for Estonia and 1.4% for Sweden (1.4%), while Malta (0.6%) and Ireland (0.9%). Total farm labour force in persons came to 20 046 160 in 2016 for the EU. From the share of EU greenhouse gas emission, agriculture accounted for 10.1% of total green house gas (GHG) emssions in 2018.

Data sourced from Europa

Question 2: What is organic farming or product, and how is it different from non-organic?

According to the Irish government: Organic farming is a sustainable production system aiming to produce quality food in a manner beneficial to the environment and to wildlife. It’s an alternative farming system that follows a sustainable method that accounts for soil fertility, animal welfare and high quality agricultural production in general.

Can any farmer claim to practice organic production method?

Yes, but the farming method has to be examined by inspection bodies and licensed to be eligible as offering organic production standard. Upon approval and license award, organic labels can be used on the produce/products, to differentiate between organic and non-organic produce or products. This is not a lifetime license. It can be failed upon regular check process, causing a shift in the share of organic agricultural area in total utilised agricultural area. This assures trustworthiness for the public and genuineness of organic products. Regionally, organic production and labelling of organic products is controlled by European regulations, including rule settings for imported organics. Nationally, Ireland currently has four certification bodies to inspect and certify organic standards of farming practices, namely: Irish Organic Association, Organic Trust Limited, BDA- Demeter UK and SAI Global Certification Limited.

Question 3: Why is there a price difference between non-organic and organic products despite the presence of environmental policy schemes? That is, why is an organic product usually more expensive than non-organic, with the presence of supporting environmental policies?

There is a presence of organic farming schemes to stimulate the conversion to organic farming. There is also a new launch for EU organic awards, starting 2022, to recognise and reward the best and most innovative actors in organic production in the region. Other than increasing or widening the organic product options in the market, would the schemes and awards impact the price gap development between organic and non-organic? How much impact will the price gap have on slowing the environmental goal to increase end-user consumption of organic products?

In a short Linkedin poll to garner consumer views on the most important factor to increase organic consumption (see image below), ‘lower price gap to non-organic’ was the majorly selected factor.

To particpate in this poll and increase the observation, click here . It would be interesting to look more into the matter from a research aspect.

It would be interesting to have a wider global view and comparison on organic production, percentile share and targets.



Dr. Gideon Fadiran

Economist/Researcher with a passion for impactful conversation. Follow podcast on Owner ‘Faddy Insight’ business