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FiBL project

Title Analysis of imports of organic products with relevance for the German organic market I
Official Acronym Bioimporte
Official project number FKZ 09OE065

The aim of this project was to estimate the present and prospective imports of organic products (fresh and processed) in to Germany. First the import demand in Germany is estimated using production data of Germany and production and demand data of the most important supplying countries (mainly EC Countries).

Third country imports of organic products can be identified by using customs data. Panel data can be used to identify the share of imports in the case of some fresh products. In other cases, the most important importers are interviewed and the results are used to determine the import share.
The estimation of the import share and its future development helps German farmers, processors, traders and politicians with their decisions about promotion and conversion of organic farming and processing.

Work packages

1: Interviews of the 50 most important importers out of 600
2: Determination of production volume in the supplying countries with the help of production data in the countries, demand in the countries and interviews with the exporters.
3: Analysis of third country imports using the data base of German and Dutch customs.
4: Technical adjustment of the data bases of FiBL and AMI
5: Analysis and recommendations
6: Communication of the results using the project webside and at fairs and congresses

The project was coordinated by the Agrarian Information Company AMI; the role of FiBL was to supply production data for countries outside Europe.

Project website


Detailed Description


Germany is not only the largest market for organic products in Europe but also its largest organic producer. In spite of this fact, in 2009/2010 Germany imported, depending on the product, 2 to 95 percent of such organic products which could also have been produced in the country. This is shown by this project, which analysed and synthesised household panel data, production and area data, as well as data on export and import volumes.

An unexpected result was the low import share of cereals. Wheat had the highest import share of 21 percent. This share varies according to quantity and quality of the German harvest, however, there is a large potential for an increase of production in Romania, Russia and Slovakia. For leguminous crops the import share of 24 percent was unexpectedly high. These imports will become even higher once the legal requirement of r100 percent organic feed has been implemented. In this context soy beans, usually classified as oilseeds, are important. These account for 76 percent of all imports among the products analyzed for this study. The cultivation of this crop, even though feasible in Germany, is not easy. There is a clear potential for further expansion.

The availability of fodder crops has an effect on pig production, which entails high costs for fodder and investments, even though the demand for organic pork can by far not be met. Beef is imported only in small quantities, it can thus not be counted as an import product. A large part of the German production is sold on the conventional market.

As to eggs, German producers are having a hard time to keep up with the strong growth in demand. The domestic market share has – in spite of the high costs for feedstuffs in 2010 – grown to 80 percent and has potential for further growth.

Organic fresh potatoes are, by volume, among the most important organic fresh product– after organic eggs and organic fresh vegetables. They held a market share of 4.7 percent in 2010. In 2009, the import share was 28 percent. It will probably remain at that level, as the organic area was expanded considerably already at the end of the 1990s and as the retailers prefer to offer imported potatoes in the early potato season. We therefore expect little change regarding the imports of early potatoes.

Regarding vegetables, carrots are by far the most sold product and are grown on 14 percent of the German carrot area. As the individual farms cannot expand the areas cultivate with carrots, Germany imports 48 percent of its organic carrots. In order to increase German production, additional producers would need to use additional small areas. The very high import rates of fruit vegetables like tomatoes (80 percent) and peppers (90 percent) are due to the all-year-round demand for products that can be grown in German only seasonally. Regarding vegetables from protected cropping, the demand for regional produce is high, so that a further expansion is possible.

Organic apples and bananas are the best sold organic fruit products. Organic bananas have, naturally, an import rate of one hundred percent. The import rate for organic apples was also high – at 50 percent tin 2009/2010. However, during that year the German organic apple area was expanded to 3000 hectares and now constitutes 9 percent of the German apple area. It can therefore be expected that, under the right weather conditions, German production will increase and the import share decrease.

Germany imports 26 percent of its fresh organic milk and 26 percent of its organic butter, most of it coming from Denmark and Austria. The import share for cheese is probably in similar range. Other products like yoghurt and cream are of German origin at a rate of almost hundred percent. Calculated in milk volumes (without consideration of the cheese imports), 16 percent of the milk is imported. It would be possible to expand German production but there will always be competition with the two main suppliers, both of which are producing surpluses.

For Germany the biggest suppliers of organic cereals are Italy, Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania and Slovakia. Regarding protein corps (fodder peas, field beans, lupines), Lithuania plays by far the most important role, and almost half of the imports are coming from there. For oilseeds including soy beans, Romania and Italy are the most important suppliers. However, several countries outside Europe (Kazakhstan, Argentina, India, and Brazil) are beginning to play an increasingly important role for soya bean imports. Potatoes are mainly imported from Israel, Egypt and Austria. The Netherlands are an important supplier of carrots, onions and eggs. Fruit vegetables are mainly coming from Spain and Italy. Israel supplies larger quantities of potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Italy supplies one third of the apples sold in Germany. The bananas are mainly from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

In many of the above-mentioned countries areas are under conversion, and thus further products can be expected for the international market from there. Already now Germany is relying on these imports, in particular for products that can be produced here only with difficulties or that can only be produced seasonally. For many livestock products like eggs, milk and pork already now German consumption is higher than production, but if enough and cheap feedstuffs are available there would be a good potential for these products. When looking at the data of the first three quarters of 2011 and at consumer trends in 2011, the organic market is likely to continue to grow at high rates.  

Start of project 01.01.2010
End of project 31.10.2011
Financing/ Donor

Funded by the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection under the German Federl Organic Farming Scheme (BOELN)

Project partners
  • Agrarmarktinformations-Gesellschaft (AMI), Bonn, Deutschland
  • Agromilagro Research, Bonn, Deutschland
  • Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (FiBL), Frick, Schweiz
  • flexinfo, Frick, Schweiz
FiBL project leader/ contact
  • Willer Helga (Department of Extension, Training and Communication)
Role of FiBL


Further Information

Schaack, Diana; Rampold, Christine; Willer, Helga; Rippin, Markus and von Koerber, Hellmut (2011) Analyse der Entwicklung des ausländischen Angebots bei Bioprodukten mit Relevanz für den deutschen Biomarkt. [Analysis of imports of organic products with relevance for the German organic market.] Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH, D-Bonn. http://orgprints.org/19899/



Research area
Date modified 12.06.2019
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