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C2.2: Area data and livestock numbers

C2.2.1 Introduction

Within the European Union (EU), data are collected on organic land areas (fully converted and in-conversion) and livestock numbers according to Regulation (EC) Nr. 834/2007 to satisfy the requirements of reporting to Eurostat: the statistical office of the European Union. Covered by regulation; this is the most widely collected data type in Europe.

C2.2.2 Approaches

The following data sources are covered in this section:

  • Administrative data sources: organic data are collected by control bodies (CBs) as part of the annual inspection of producers,
  • Governmental data sources: organic data are collected as part of farm structure surveys carried out by governments or by using administrative data from the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS).

C2.2.2.1 Administrative data sources

In most countries, data on crop areas and livestock numbers are collected by control bodies, as part of the organic certification process, and are collated by a central organisation (e.g. the national ministry of agriculture or an organisation appointed by them). Some data cleaning/harmonisation may occur, and the data are then provided to Eurostat, which then publishes the data in an online database. The data may also be published nationally.

Inspection visits take place at different times of the year on different farms, and they collect data on cropping areas and/or livestock numbers on the farm on the day of the inspection. The collated data are, therefore, an amalgamation of these data sets rather than a collation of data collected on the same day.

C2.2.2.2 Governmental data sources

Governments collect some data on organic farms as part of general data collection, which can be useful for collating data on organic land area and livestock numbers.

The Farm Structure Survey (FSS) contains information on the land use and livestock of farms. In Germany, data from the farm structure survey have been used for the Eurostat database since 2013. Farmers tick "organic" when they participate in the farm structure survey. The same approach could be adopted in other countries if an organic identifier is included in the survey. There are, however, no checks against the data collected by the control bodies. In addition, it should be noted that a full census is done only every ten years (at least for some crops) with the years in between covered by sample surveys.

In some countries, administrative data from the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) are used as part of the reporting of organic land area: for example in Switzerland and Austria. The Swiss Statistical Office (BfS) collects all data per farm, as part of the data collected in the context of the rural development/agri-environmental programmes. The control bodies use these data as a basis when they carry out their inspections. Not all certified organic farms necessarily participate in organic support options as part of the rural development/agri-environment programmes. 

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C2.2.3 Concluding remarks

C2.2.3.1 Data classification

Data collection for land area should only cover agricultural area. Care should be taken with forest and wild collection areas, which are reported separately and are not included as part of the agricultural land.

  • Example
    Until 2012, the wild collection area was included as agricultural land in the organic farming statistics in Spain, but this has now changed. For Finland, the wild collection area was not included (otherwise the organic share of the total agricultural land would have been 300 percent).

When dealing with livestock numbers, the most important issue is to define clearly what data are collected and reported:  

  • all stock on a certain day in the year,
  • average stock in a defined period (year),
  • animal places (capacity) over a defined period (year), or
  • slaughtered animals.

Coefficients can be used to convert one to the other (e.g. average stock to slaughtered animals), but they have to be determined for the relevant country and organic farming conditions. These coefficients should always be published together with the data (metadata).

Livestock that does not have organic status, despite being reared on organic farms, should not be reported as organic livestock.

  • Example
    There were 3.7 million places for organic laying hens (in farms with more than 3’000 hens) in Germany as of December 1, 2013, but there were only 3.27 million live laying hens on that day. This means that the degree of capacity utilisation was 87%: the same as in conventional agriculture. Assuming that laying hens live for more or less 1 year as a laying hen (18 weeks of breeding not counted), then there is about the same number of culled hens per year. For broilers, there are between 4 and 4.5 turnovers that have to be taken into account for organic farming when calculating the number of  animals from the number of animal places.

C2.2.3.2 Harmonising area and livestock production data with Eurostat classifications

Data collected by control bodies are collated at national level to complete the annual return to Eurostat. This requires harmonisation of CB data categories with the Eurostat categories that are used for the organic and non-organic data (Eurostat, 2013). This process can be time consuming.

We recommend to first map existing CB categories against the Eurostat categories (possibly translating them if required) and then to harmonize area, livestock number and production data with Eurostat categories. In the OrganicDataNetwork project, we found that continuous dialogue and mapping of these individual data categories against those used by Eurostat can increase the awareness of CBs and other private data collection bodies of existing classification systems, and reduce the time and effort required for data cleaning by the authorities in collating the data for the Eurostat return. 

When starting a new data collection, the OrganicDataNetwork strongly recommends adopting the Eurostat classifications for organic production (Eurostat, 2013) as a basis for classification systems. If Eurostat classifications are not detailed enough, it is always possible to additional sub-categories to extend the classifications.

Software that can assist in carrying out inspections and deliver statistical returns at the same time is used by a number of Austrian, Swiss, and international control bodies, but to our knowledge does not yet exist at a European level.