Manel González. Journalist
In Spain, 2015 was a turning point for organic production. If 2014 figures reflected an upswing with respect to the previous year, 2015 saw the sector gain strength and expand notably, and there's every indication that the positive trend is continuing in 2016.
That was the forecast in the latest report, "Characterization of Spain's organic production sector in value and market terms", drafted by the consulting company Prodescon for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, Food and the Environment (MAPAMA), published by the department at the end of December.
According to the study, the organic production sector in Spain grew considerably in 2015 in many areas: production structures, domestic consumption, exports, etc.
Greater surface area, more producers
The area registered for organic agriculture expanded by 15% with respect to 2014, from 1,663,200 hectares to 1,968,600. However, changes in the organic production area were negligible (1,449,000 h in 2014 and 1,410,500 h in 2015), which suggests potential for future growth.
The area registered for organic agriculture already accounts for 7.8% of the total crop-growing area, pastures and meadows in Spain, 12.3% of the total pasture and meadow area, and 5.6% of total farmland.
As for geographic distribution, the report confirms that most of the area for organic agriculture is in southern Spain. Andalusia accounts for 51.3% of the total—the clear winner—followed by Castile-La Mancha (18.6%), Catalonia (7.2%), Extremadura (4.7%), Valencia (3.9%), Murcia (2.9%), Aragón (2.6%), Navarre (2.1%) and the other regions (6.6%).
Moreover, the number of organic farmers increased by 13.3% with respect to 2014, to 34,673 (+4,071), of which 29,750 are involved in agricultural production, while 1,930 raise livestock and 2,993 engage in multiple activities.
Farms that combine crop and livestock production grew the most (+28.9%), while livestock farmers increased by 18.4% and farmers by 12.5%.
Organic livestock farming
Based on data from the report, the contribution by organic production of animal origin is still low, as there are a relatively small number of farms (7,553), despite a notable increase with respect to 2014, when there were 1,476 less.
Of those, 3,515 are cattle farms (641 more), 2,846 breed sheep and goats (478 more) and 294 are dedicated to poultry.
There was also significant growth in the number of heads of cattle for organic production in 2015. It's worth noting the increase in the number of heads of sheep, which amounted to 574,000 (449,500 in 2014), followed by poultry (meat), with 207,500 heads (179,900 in 2014); cows, with 185,400 (163,700); goats, with 33,400 (31,300); and pigs, with 10,700 (6,800). Organic meat production mainly comes from cows, sheep and chickens, while organic pork still doesn't have a comparable weight compared with the size of the Spanish pork industry, which is enormous.
Organic milk production mainly comes from dairy cattle, although data from the report reflect notable growth in organic dairy goats.
Other stock used for organic production that strengthened its position or increased in 2015 included egg-laying poultry (253,100 heads, vs. 211,300 in 2014) and bees (58,300 beehives, vs. 48,500).
Spain's organic sector
In 2015, there was also significant development of the industrialization structure of Spain's organic production sector, which led to an increase in the number of companies as well as industrial establishments.
According to MAPAMA, there are 5,825 industrial establishments (777 more than in 2014) and 3,492 companies (410 more).
It's also evident that the industrialization structure of organic production of vegetable origin is more developed than organic production of animal origin: 4,960 establishments, compared with 865.
Domestic and external production and consumption
Production volumes for most of the main lines of organic products skyrocketed in 2015, with the result that overall production rose by 26.2% with respect to 2014.
Organic production of vegetable origin expanded, from 1,341,662.2 tons to 1,693,166.1 tons, while products of animal origin increased, though volume is still negligible.
In terms of value, and in line with production growth in terms of volume, there was also a significant increase in 2015, to 1.619 billion euros. As organic production was valued at 1.202 million euros in 2014, that reflects an increase of 34.7%.
Growth in products of vegetable origin was especially notable, from 990.4 million euros to 1,358.2 million euros. Organic production of animal origin expanded, from 211.7 million to 260.8 million euros.
In line with growth in production, domestic consumption also registered a notable upswing in 2015. In terms of value, spending amounted to 1.498 billion euros, up 24.5% with respect to 2014. The report drafted by Prodescon for MAPAMA underlines the fact that "spending on organic products has increased in Spain much more intensely than spending on traditional foods and beverages, which has been chronically stagnant in recent years" (growing just 1% in 2015).
Per capita spending on organic products also rose, to 32.27 euros per person per year (25.89 euros in 2014), which aligns Spanish consumers with those of large developed countries in terms of organic product consumption.
With respect to foreign sales of organic products from Spain, it's worth nothing the high degree of internationalization following the notable boost in exports (imports also increased).
In 2015, exports of organic products amounted to 778 million euros (724 million in 2014) and had a value of 431 million euros (365 in 2014).
The organic production industry accounts for 3.5% of the positive trade balance in the agri-food sector as a whole.