Andalusia is the leader in ecological production and it is one step ahead of the goals marked out by Europe with the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. At present, the European Union has set a target of 25% of ecological surface area for 2030, but this region has already passed this figure by almost five points, reaching 29.7%, according to the latest data made public by the Andalusian Department of Agriculture, Fishing, Water and Rural Development.
The data is categorical, with over 1.3 million hectares using ecological production techniques, over 3,000 industries and over 5,400 livestock farms. Of these figures, the main ecological farming exploitations, taking the latest statistics into consideration, are grazing land, meadows and fodder production with 874,986 hectares, followed by olive groves with 117,380 hectares, dried fruit that occupy 100,436 hectares, and cereals, legumes and industrial crops together that make up 106,080 hectares.
Regarding agribusiness, Andalusia has over 21,500 ecological operators, taking into account producers, processors, import companies and marketers. This figure saw a 24% increase (4,175 more operators) in 2021 compared to the figure for 2020.
The handling and packaging of fresh ecological fruit and vegetable produce (594) and the oil presses and/or ecological oil packagers (493) are the most representative categories in the Andalusian region, where a total of 3,038 ecological activities are located.
A law to promote consumption
The regional Government is aware of the economic appeal of ecological production, but also of the need to bring the growth of the production (29.7% of the total surface area) closer to the consumption rates, which only make up 2.3% of all foodstuffs. And it has got down to work, endorsing this with the start of the procedures for the draft bill pertaining to the Law on the Advocacy and Promotion of Ecological Production in Andalusia.
“At the latest meetings with the representatives from the sector, we are reliably seeing that we are leaders and we want this leadership to continue and to project it even more in the future,” explains the councillor, Carmen Crespo. “We have started up this law, which is mainly aimed at promoting the consumption of ecological produce.”
By way of the new regulation, the Andalusian government intends to take a leap towards revitalising the promotion for consumption, obtaining better protection of ecological production and industry, and greater support for research.
Along these lines, they will carry out dissemination and institutional communication campaigns, improving the information systems regarding the sector’s operators and statistics and facilitating contributions by consultancy and participation bodies. To do this, the Law on Advocacy and Promotion of Ecological Production in Andalusia will have at least 15% of the Rural Development Plan’s budget, at least 20% of the budget devoted to the promotion of ecological produce and an improved valuation, for ecological production, in the documents specifying promotion actions by the Department.
OCU: bio, few, expensive products
The bio shelves have become popular in recent years in conventional supermarkets, removing the monopoly of shops and chains specialising in bio produce. And although the offer has grown appreciably, the truth is that Spanish consumers continue to perceive ecological products as expensive and with an offer that is still small.
As has been shown in a study by the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU), published in November of last year, regarding fresh foods, they cost on average double the price of conventional produce, although in Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl the general price level for produce holding eco certificates is significantly below average.
For the OCU, responsible consumption “necessarily requires a wide offer of sustainable and ecological products, which can be easily recognised and that are reasonably priced.”
In its study, the OCU highlights that Alcampo, El Corte Inglés, Carrefour and Eroski are the distribution chains that have the largest offer of ecological products, many of them using their own brands. All of them have a basic shopping basket where at least 50% of the products have eco, fair trade or sustainability certificates, drawing closer to the ranges in the chains specialising in ecological produce, such as Veritas, Naturitas, Espacio Orgánico, Herbolario Navarro, Planeta Huerto or Biosano.
Other Spanish food chains such as Gadis, Condis, Consum, Aldi, Caprabo or BM offer 25% or more of products in the basic shopping basket with these certificates. On the other hand, MAS, Lidl and DIA make up at least 15%. And it is worth mentioning Mercadona which, in spite of being a market share leader in our country, still does not offer any bio produce, according to the OCU.