OrganicDataNetwork: discussion with market researchers and representatives of official agencies
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The second European Workshop on “finding practical solutions to current organic market data problems” was organised within the framework of the OrganicDataNetwork project. The workshop has been held at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM-IAMB) in Valenzano, Italy on 10 and 11 July 2014. This workshop is the last in a series of two workshops organised as part of an effort to bring together stakeholders in the organic market data sector from European Union, EU candidate and EFTA countries. The project is now coming to the last stage and the consortium is engaged in finalising the Code of Practice for the initiation and maintenance of good organic market data collection and publication procedures (OrMaCode), which will be presented at the IFOAM World Congress from 13 – 15 October 2014 in Istanbul.
(Picture: At the OrganicDataNetwork workshop in Valenzano/ Bari around 30 participants from 20 countries addressed the methodology of organic market data collection in Europe)
The first workshop (held at the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, Newbury, UK on March 13, 2013) identified organic market data problems (see our earlier report). The 2nd workshop concentrated on finding practical solutions to the identified problems, such measures to improve the quality of data and the development of model pathways for the implementation of organic market data collection procedures. It was organised by the Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (IAMB).
As well as the representatives of the 15 project partners, for the second time stakeholders in the organic data sectors were also invited to this workshop on the basis of their knowledge and experience in organic market data collection, so that they could contribute their experience and discuss the outcomes achieved by the OrganicDataNetwork project so far. The one-and-a-half days spent with the host, the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM-IAMB), were naturally also an opportunity to get to know other participants, to discuss ideas and experiences, to provide a unique opportunity for networking with other experts on European market data and will lead to an ongoing platform for information exchange. As the official representative of the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG Agri), Ivica Karas came from Brussels to get an idea of the progress made by the EU project and of the problems involved in data collection in the organic sector. The event was moderated by Marco Schlüter, the head of the IFOAM EU Group in Brussels. (Picture: In the plenary session, participants were given full information about the facts and possible solutions worked out so far)
Participants in the second and last workshop were mainly representatives of ministries and official agencies, from market research and organisations in the organic sector. Representatives came from about 20 countries, including the Scandinavian and Baltic states (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania), Britain, France, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and naturally the host country Italy. Many countries are principally exporters of organic products and are interested in better assessment of the strong organic markets in the EU. Current data on, for example, the development of the area of organic land and the availability of products are to be made accessible more rapidly to market participants in all countries in order to stimulate trade. In their contributions, the representatives drew attention particularly to the problems they were having with the current provision of data.
(Picture: The conference venue was the renowned Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, whose activities include addressing issues in the organic sector)
The overall objective of the OrganicDataNetwork project is to increase transparency of the European organic food market and to provide up-to-date information by improving and standardising the methodology and also to better present organic markets internationally with harmonised data from reliable sources. Further important aims are setting up long-term cooperation in data collection and analysis in order to make competition fairer and ultimately more transparent for the consumer. The primary aim of the workshop was to improve the Code of Practice manual which will be useful for data collectors and to discuss how information exchange between data collectors could continue after the end of the project. During the workshop, a training session on the OrganicDataNetwork database was held for data collectors.
(Video: interview with Prof. Dr. Raffaele Zanoli on the status quo and the prospects of ODN)
In addition to lectures by project partners on results, there were four stations dealing specifically with the issues of "The Institutional Setting", "Statistical Methodologies 1 and 2" and "Statistical Results". During the two days, all participants visited the four groups, where they raised issues and made suggestions. The final assessment of both project partners and independent participants was positive. “Our idea was to find out from market participants about their experiences and opinions on specific issues that we had worked on in the project. From my point of view that was a success and at the same time we could point to multipliers with our project,” concludes Michael Lošák from the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS), Czech Republic. Project partner Burkhard Schaer, Ecozept, France, (picture above: workshop leader) argued in favour of making available for analysis data that had already been compiled but was languishing on hard disks in PCs and in data bases. He said that there were two provisos: harmonized collection and an updated publication schedule plus, most importantly, dialogue between the data compilers. (Pictures: Taking part in the four workshops)
Helga Willer, from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick/Switzerland, is very experienced in data collection because every year she compiles and collates data on organic agriculture worldwide. She was very pleased with the conference: “With this second workshop we’ve moved a long way forward. It’s extremely important to take account of the issues of actors in a whole variety of contexts. They will find their way into our final concept. I’m very pleased with the outcome of these two days.” For Martin Timmermann from the raw materials portal Organic Trade Exchange otx, Germany, taking part in the workshop was a valuable experience. As he explained: “Apart from networking, that is always useful, for me it was important to get to know the various aspects of harmonized data collection and evaluation, because I myself work a lot with data. I realised how important it is to have a unified methodology. That’s a great help to the organic sector.” Karin Lösch too from the consultancy Kommunikationsberatung Klaus Braun, Germany was able to take home information and inspiration from the conference. (Pictures: Intensive work and relaxed networking over dinner)
At the end of the event, project coordinator Raffaele Zanoli from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, Italy, summarised the status quo and the way ahead: “We’ve achieved a lot with a small budget. We’ve addressed important issues in detail, and we’ve even been able to include a number of non-EU countries in dealing with the development of methodology. Now it’s a question of applying and further developing the methodology and of transforming our work into long-term cooperation among all parties.” (Picture from left: Ivica Karas from the European Commission DG Agri in conversation with Prof. Dr. Raffaele Zanoli, Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, and Marta Romeo from SINAB, the Italian information system for organic farming)
There will be a detailed presentation of the project at the IFOAM World Congress in October in Istanbul. By then, data on the organic markets in the EU will be on the web portal of OrganicDataNetwork, where it can be accessed together with the guide. OrganicMarketCode (OrMaCode) and the handbook containing the principles of data collection. The results will be officially submitted to the EU Commission in Brussels, and there will also be an opportunity to present them at BioFach 2015. (Picture from left: Martin Cottingham, Soil Association, Great Britain, in conversation with Marco Schlüter, IFOAM EU Group, Brussels)
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