Caution: growth trap
by Horst Fiedler (comments: 0)
The organic industry is at the parting of the ways: it either falls into the trap of a spiral of falling prices and quality or it masters the art of being the leader in terms of quality. How to achieve this leadership was discussed by Prof. Franz-Theo Gottwald (Schweisfurth Foundation), Thomas Jorgberg (GLS-Bank) and Ralf Fücks (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung).
Organic agriculture must grow. This aim is undisputed. But how can it be done without endangering the quality of its products? The approximately 20 years of efficiency gains in the industry have already benefited the trade and consumers. So the question arises whether further growth will take place that is not in keeping with the same rules of the market, resulting in organic farming failing to achieve its desired aims.
Pumping even more food into a market that already supplies a billion obese people can only be done by lowering prices, said Jorberg and he reminded us that 50% of food is wasted on its way from field to stomach. In the conventional trade you can already buy chicken soup for four people that costs only 70 cents. Organic agriculture must not fall into the same trap. Although it has to become more efficient, it must never be at the expense of quality. For Prof. Gottwald a “cultural quality” has to develop that enables organic farmers to maintain their high standards and to further improve them.
In any case, they all thought it is not feasible to regulate the output of organic agriculture via the price mechanism. The political framework conditions and the awareness of the population have to be changed. “To manage everything via price leads to a dead end,” said Fücks. He hopes that the increasing "information transparency" with the help of social media will raise awareness about the hidden costs associated with cheap products. In his view, imposing a slurry levy on conventional agriculture in the form of a CO2 tax is equally conceivable to integrating synergies of organic farming into the value chain.
Jorberg’s demand: liberate consumers from their contradiction (on Sunday a visit to an organic farm with contented pigs; on Monday meat from a discounter). He too sees in the transparency made possible by digitisation a way of raising consumers’ awareness of how organic farming contributes to the common good and animal welfare.