Record numbers of French farmers converted to organic last year, according to France’s lead organic body Agence Bio.

Around 5,000 new organic farms achieved certification in 2018, meaning that 9.5% of all French farms are organic, while organic now accounts for 7.5% of the country’s farmland.

Agence Bio says the sharp rise in organic production was helping keep pace with strong consumer demand, and also limit the need for imports.

Florent Guhl, director of Agence Bio, pointed to the impact on employment in the farming sector. “In total, 14% of agricultural employment is now in organic farming.”

The biggest growth in organic farming came from the grain sector, and was partly a response to depressed prices for conventional grain. But generous financial organic conversion support and supply chain investments also provided encouragement.

In the field of pulses, 40% are already organic. In viticulture too, the leap is also striking (+ 20%), with 12% of the French vineyards operating to organic standards in 2018. To encourage winemakers to take the plunge, a CAB label (organic farming conversion) was created to cover the three-year conversion period. The logo allows the winemaker to explain to the consumer that it is engaged in the organic process, and therefore qualified to sell its wine a small premium over conventional.

Despite the considerable successes of 2018, work remains to be done if France is to reach the 15% organic farmland target, which French government wants met by 2020.

Photo: Super U organic wine aisle.