Monday, August 03, 2015

Organic farmers struggle to meet demand; food makers and retailers buy land to grow their own

Organic farmer Andrew Dunham looks for ripe
eggplant on one of the biggest multi-vegetable
farms in Iowa. 
 (DMR photo by Brian Powers)
Organic produce still has less than 6 percent of the national market, but is growing so rapidly that farmers are having trouble meeting increased demand, Christoper Doering reports for The Des Moines Register.

"Shortages have led to sky-high prices for some organic products. And more livestock producers, hungry for organic feeds, are importing them from overseas because they can't find enough in the United States, Doering writes, quoting Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association: "There is not a major retailer in the country that doesn't have appealing to the organic shopper in their strategy right now. But what happens if the industry can't fulfill that opportunity, and people walk away?"

Doering reports, "Batcha said some private-sector food makers and retailers are buying land to produce their own organic produce, or are enticing producers with long-term contracts that offer to pay them extra while they transition to organic — a period that can be costly for the producer who is dealing with lower yields and higher input costs but is not yet able to attract premium prices."

The OTA predicts sales will increase 12 to 15 percent a year for the next three years, Doering writes: "Organic food sales have risen by double digits annually as the public consumes more fruits, vegetables, pastas, dairy and meats raised and grown without pesticides, genetic modification or antibiotics, among other stringent requirements. Over the past decade, organic food revenue has tripled, reaching a record $36 billion last year."

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