|Case Studies for Organic In Sweden Agrucultural Conditions, Case Studies for Early Organic Agricultural Development in Sweden|
Swedish farmland amounts to only 2.7 million ha, about 7% of the total land area. The climate allows farming only part of the year, and agricultural conditions and production vary a lot from north to south. Animal husbandry is the dominant form of production. Structural developments in agriculture over the last few decades have led to fewer but larger farms; diversified medium-sized family farms are disappearing while production shifts to larger, more specialized farm enterprises. 67% of farms have more than 50 ha, and between 1990 and 2005 average farm size increased from 29 to 36 ha. Less than 2% of the economically active population is engaged in farming.
Agriculture production accounts for 0.3% of GDP (1% in 1993), and imports of food and agricultural inputs is larger than exports, which are 3% of total exports. Since 1995, when Sweden became a member of the European Union and part of the Common Agriculture Policy, sales of products have become a smaller part of farm income, while direct payments are the most important economic factor for a majority of farms. On the whole, profitability has decreased for all kinds of production, putting agriculture under great economic strain.
With 19,000 organic farmers and 19% of its farmland managed organically, Sweden almost achieved the national goal of ‘20% organic farming in 2005’. The image of the organic farmer nowadays is that of a modern market-oriented agricultural expert prepared to meet the demands for high quality and environmentally sound food production. Organic agriculture in Sweden has developed in parallel with the general agricultural trend of structural change; the farms are growing in size, the number of animals is decreasing, and compared with conventional agriculture the average size of organic farms is even bigger, 60 ha. But in other ways their development differs; the average age of organic farmers is lower and the proportion of women occupied in organic agriculture is higher.
The growth of organic agriculture has been strong and steady since the beginning of the 1980s, but the biggest increase happened after 1995 with EU membership. With the stimulation of the different EU programs in combination with an expanding market for organic products, the organic area grew from 50,000 ha in 1994 to 510,000 in 2005.
Development of organic farms and farming area 1985-2005 (Source: Grolink)
In 2005 grass and clover leys accounted for 48% of the certified organic area compared with 39% in conventional agriculture. Grain accounts for 33% (40% in conventional farming). The proportion of organic dairy cows is 6-7%, and for beef cattle 5.5%. Organic pigs account for 0.8% of the total production and laying hens 7.3%.
After a few years of stagnation, the organic market is again expanding strongly because of a new interest in climate, energy and environment issues as well as in health and food quality and safety. According to consumer surveys, 96% of the population recognizes the KRAV label and more than 60% of consumers are positive towards organic food and willing to pay a higher price. This shows a great potential to expand the market share, which in 2005 was 3%.
Since 1995, organic development has been conducted within the frame of national goals, the latest one being formulated as ‘20% organic certified production and 25% organic consumption in the public sector’. It is characterized by a few organizations pushing and lobbying and extensive stakeholder cooperation in organized forums.(Author: Inger Källander)
Further Reading on Sweden's Organic Sector Development:
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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