Friday, November 4, 2016

France's organic revolution

For a country that has an estimated less than 2 per cent vegetarians (boosted by British residents?), in the last few months there has nonetheless been a veritable revolution in the offer, distribution, purchase and consumption of organic - known as 'bio' products. The evidence is all around us as evidenced by the statistics I have assembled below which are impressive.  Today France is number three in Europe, after Spain and Italy, and ahread of Britain!

The bare facts  
- Between 2014 and 2014 (latest figures available) the bio market overall grew by 15%
- There were 9% more producers of bio products
- There was a 23%  increase in the amount of agricultrual land turned over to bio production
- Overall 5% of French agricultural land is is now dedicated to bio production

Best regions for bio 
- If you are a confirmed organic consumer then the best place to be is the south west - the broad sweep of territory along the Mediterranean coast, from the Pyrenees round to the border with Italy, notably Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Pays de Loire, Rhone-Alpes, and Provence-Cote d'Azur.

Creating employment
- Bio production tends to be labour intensive compared with mechanised farming, some 26,000 producers have taken on 7% more workers, with some 69,000 now employed in the industry

- There are also 9,500 firms engaged in preparing bio products for sale (ready-made dishes, packaging etc) and 3,400 distributors/transport operators - with a total of around 100,000 workers

- For a market estimated at 5 billion euros.

- Most of this is for consumption at home (as opposed to eating out) though the number of restaurants offering total or partial bio meals is also increasing.

The retail network
- Bio products are not only found in specialist 'health food shops' but increasingly alongside traditional products in supermarkets, direct sales (internet etc) and direct from producers to consumers ('farm shops' etc)

- Traditional bio specialist shops include Bio-coop (nearly 400 branches), La Vie Claire (250), Biomonde (200), Naturalia  (100+) and several smaller groups

- Among the most important supermarket chains are Monoprix (my local source), Carrefour, Auchan, Intermarché, Casino, ELeclerc etc., some stocking as many as 550 references (eg. Carrefour).

- Surveys have shown that overall consumption of bio productions is on the increase:

- 89% occasionally at home (54% ten years ago)

- 67% once per week (37% in 2003)

- 23% every week

- 10% every day

Consumers give their reasons why

Against a background of falling expenditure as a proportion of overall household spending (mortgage, rent, utilities etc), among the reasons given for spending on bio products even during la crise, consumers say

- 82% have confidence in bio products

- 56% like 'the better quality'

- 59% are motivated by environmental concers

- 63% cite health reasons.

Media coverage

In line with the above, it must be acknowledged that press and television coverage of the food industry has been extensive, with programmes about the use of presticides, scandals involving production methods and conditions in abattoirs. I have observed notable increases in this type of coverage in the last 12 to 18 months.

Principal sources I have used include:

- - statistics, accreditation for organic producers etc and references to other sites

- 'Manger bio c'est pas du luxe' by Dr Lylian Le Goff (Hachette Marabout 2016) - excellent history, statistics, analyses of food products, etc. Invaluable.

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