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Home » Part A: Implementation of an organic market data collection system » A2: What is an organic market data collection system

A2: What is an organic market data collection system


Data availability - as information and knowledge - is a public service (Karr, 2014; Stiglitz, 1999). Nevertheless, data availability is not the ultimate goal of any data development, production and dissemination system. Instead, the goal is to optimise the decisions based on the data that are made by governments, businesses and individuals (Karr, 2014).

For the purpose of this manual, organic market data collection is defined as the systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data necessary for designing, implementing and evaluating decisions related to organic markets. These decisions can be taken by the following stakeholders:

  • public bodies (e.g., governments, including public procurement agencies);
  • companies and other enterprises (e.g., farmers, other organic operators);
  • consumers;
  • researchers.

Data collection processes need to be designed to ensure that the data gathered are relevant, accurate, complete and coherent , and that subsequent decisions based on the data are valid. As decisions are often formed by analysing competing scenarios, the comparability of the data generated is, therefore, another relevant dimension to define any appropriate data collection process. Finally, the timeliness of the publication of any data defines an appropriate data dissemination process.

A2.1 Current data collection and dissemination efforts at national and transnational level

Transnational levels

European Commission – Statistical Office (Eurostat)

At the European level, the most important transnational data collection system is that of Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Eurostat collects the following data types for its 28 member states, and for Norway and Switzerland:

  • area data, which includes land use details;
  • operator data (e.g., processors and importers, classified according to NACE codes; Eurostat, 2008);
  • livestock numbers, as well as primary crop production and livestock production volumes.

These data are disseminated via the Eurostat homepage and through the Eurostat reports “Statistics in Focus” (Rohner-Thielen, 2010; Eurostat, 2010a, b, c).

European Commission – DG-Agriculture

The Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission publishes non periodical reports on organic farming, which include both data and analyses of the sector development (EC, 2005, 2010, 2013).

Other relevant organisations in relation to organic data development, production and dissemination are the following:

Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)

FiBL provides area-related and operator data annually, as well as total values for the domestic markets for all of the European countries and some trade data (total values and volumes for some countries). For the data related to primary production, Eurostat or national Ministry data are used, whereas for a Candidate, a Potential Candidate, and other countries, a range of sources is used (e.g., government data, data collected by certification bodies and/or the private sector). For retail and trade data, again a number of government and private sources are used; however, it should be noted that a lot of these data are based on rough expert estimates. Most of the data are available from FiBL & IFOAM (Willer and Lernoud, 2014, and previous editions), as well as on the website

Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM-IAMB)

CIHEAM-IAMB provides data related to primary-production for the Mediterranean countries (e.g., areas, operators, production volumes). These data are based on government sources, to which IAMB has good access through the Mediterranean Organic Agriculture Network (MOAN). Recently, the availability of particularly export data has improved considerably. These data are published in occasional reports (Pugliese and Al-Bitar, 2008; Pugliese et al., 2014), and annually in the FiBL/IFOAM yearbook (Al Bitar et al., 2012).

Ecozept, a market research and marketing consulting agency

Ecozept has built a network of market experts in the countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia, within the framework of the FP 7 project FOCUS-BALKANS (KBBE-2007-212579). Until 2012, this network provided data on the marketing channels and the total volumes of domestic sales. Since 2012, no update of the date relating to the western Balkan countries has been carried out. Today the Balkan network would need re-grounding and enlarging to enhance data quality. Ecozept also has a network of experts in specialised organic retail sales in Europe (van Osch et al., 2008). These networks include mainly private market observers and market actors, and they provided mainly data of a qualitative nature (i.e., expert estimates).

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Since 2010, FAOSTAT, the statistical department of FAO, has started to provide area-related data on organic agriculture (e.g., total land under organic management, main land use types, conversion status; FAOSTAT, 2010). Currently, data for approximately 160 countries are available. Data are collected directly from the governments, and supplemented by FiBL and MOAN data.

National level

At the national level, the data are compiled by a number of initiatives and are made available to the public via various dissemination channels. These data can be broadly classified into four groups, ordered here by the frequency of collection, with comments in brackets:

  • primary production (area and production volume more frequently collected than the value);
  • prices (farm level and retail);
  • domestic market (retail sales, public procurement and catering data are also available in some countries);
  • international trade (in some EU Member States the export data are collected by some non-European countries with strong exports).

Data collection methods vary with the type of data collected, which can include:

  • surveys, which are common for many different types of data;
  • censuses, which are often used to collect production volume data when the population is small;
  • panels, which are likely to be used for retail/ consumer price data.

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A2.2 Primary production

Currently, all EU Member States and the EFTA countries, and the governments of the Candidate and Potential Candidate countries, provide primary production-related and operator data. The provision of these data is required for areas, livestock numbers, and operators in EC Regulation 834/2007 (European Council, 2007). In most cases, these data are collected by the competent authorities from the accredited certifiers, and they are available publicly for the 27 EU countries in the Eurostat database (Eurostat, 2010b). Eurostat checks these data according to the procedures laid down in the Eurostat Code of Practice (Eurostat, 2011). The data available in this database are harmonised according to the Eurostat classification for organic farming (Eurostat, 2010c), which is now increasingly used by the Member States for their own national organic statistics. Figure A.1 shows the institutions involved and their functions in the collection, processing and publishing of the organic primary production data in the EU countries. Some of the primary agricultural data are incomplete, because:

  • administrative (from inspection bodies) and statistical (from farm structure surveys) data are not necessarily linked;
  • there are still several gaps in the datasets: information on the conversion status is not available for all countries;
  • level of detail for the land use varies;
  • production volumes and values of the primary production are not always available.

A2.2.1 Area data and livestock numbers

In some countries, the data are not divided into land-use types, and they do not even contain information on animal husbandry. This is the reason for some public and private agencies/ research institutes collecting data directly from the control bodies. Additional data on production areas and numbers can also be collected by the statistical offices of the Member State as part of their national Farm Structure Survey (FSS). However, these do not cover just organic farming, and therefore the organic sample can be very small.

A2.2.2 Production volume and value data

Almost half of the European countries publish at least some data on the volumes and values of primary production (i.e., crops, livestock). In most cases, these data are estimates based on surveys of organic producers. In these countries, the production volumes of a few basic product groups, such as vegetables, fruit and meat (i.e., pork, beef, poultry) are calculated according to area and average yields (e.g., carcass weights for meat) in that particular year. Additional production volume and value data can be obtained from Agricultural Census/ Surveys and Farm Business Surveys. However, in some countries, organic farms are not well represented, and therefore the sample sizes can be very small. In these situations, there are significant questions about these data being representative. In the near future, Eurostat will require some yield data (e.g., volume data) for livestock production, in addition to the livestock numbers and crop areas that they currently collate. Some countries (e.g., UK, Italy, Germany) are currently estimating yield data with the help of regional experts.

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A2.3 Prices (farm level, retail)

To date, no European overview on producer and consumer prices for organic products is available.

On a national level, in some countries (e.g., Germany and Italy have the longest experience), data on consumer and producer prices in the organic market are collected and published on a weekly or monthly basis. Producer price data are collected and published weekly by the Agricultural Stock Exchanges or are based on surveys of producers, traders and experts, while consumer prices are collected and published using panel data of private market research companies (e.g., GFK-Eurisko, Nielsen) or by directly using supermarket/ discounter price lists. The available prices cannot be compared between countries, or even within a single countries, as there is no EU-wide harmonised product classification and nomenclature, and prices can be collected at different stages in the supply chain.

A2.4 Domestic market

Almost half of the European countries publish at least some data on their domestic market. However, in this area, the existing data have very diverse sources. These range from single expert opinions to surveys with market experts at different levels in the supply chain, to retail panel data, and household panel data. Most of these sources cannot be expected to achieve full coverage, and many of these sources show contradictory results, with the accuracy often low. Before the OrganicDataNetwork, there was no European overview of volumes and values of individual products sold. In most countries, data are available for supermarkets only, while in Germany and France, organic food shops are also covered through specialist panels. In some countries, non-profit organisations or (semi-) governmental organisations purchase these data and publish them more widely. A good example is the yearbook of Agence Bio (2010) and a very comprehensive study from the Spanish government (MARM, 2010). The German Agrarmarkt-Informationsgesellschaft (AMI, 2010) has a yearly publication on market data based on its own data collection and the panel data of different market-research companies (Nielsen, GfK, bioVista). In Italy, ISMEA has published consumption data based on Gfk-Eurisko household panel data, although these data are currently published as a differential from the previous year (i.e., the market dynamics) and not as absolute values. Also, these data published by ISMEA only refer to sales through general food stores (e.g., supermarkets, hypermarkets, drugstores), which thus excludes specialised organic shops and direct sales.

A2.4.1 Supermarket retail volumes and values

Private market research companies like GfK and ACNielsen carry out household panels or retail panels, and these also include organic products. Monthly/ quarterly reports are published, but these are only available to subscribers, and at high cost.

A2.4.2 Catering volumes and values

Estimate of the volumes and values for catering sales are available in a few countries. Data are usually based on expert opinions or CATI (computer-aided telephone interview) surveys of those responsible for catering (e.g., the buyer of food products). In the majority of cases, as in France for instance, the survey covers only public and private canteens, and no other forms of catering (e.g., restaurants).

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A2.5 International trade data

Data on exports and imports are still very scarce, even though a few European countries now provide data on total volume/ values, and some provide a breakdown according to product. Denmark is the only country that has a comprehensive dataset of volumes/ values of exports/ imports according to crop/ product and country (Statistics Denmark, 2014). With respect to import data, in some countries, estimates are based on surveys of processing companies that detail the imported volumes or imported percentages of their purchases. Some countries are also working with Customs authorities to obtain better understanding of the import/ export of some non-EU products, although this only applies to Third World countries, and often does not include values.

While the primary production data is guaranteed because a detailed legislative basis has been established for their collection at the European level (see Reg. 834/07), there is no obligation for authorities to document imports from Third World countries or intra-EU-trade. The only exception can be made for Italy, where the competent authority recently set up a Ministerial Decree (Nr. 18378, of 9 August 2012) that requires that import operators of organic products from Third World countries (both countries in the equivalent and not equivalent regimes) must self-declare the exact volumes of each product imported. However, the Italian data apply only to non-EU countries, and do not report the values of the imports.

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