Almost 10 percent of Czech agricultural land now given over to organic farming

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

Nearly 10 percent of all agricultural land in the Czech Republic is now given over to organic farming, according to new data from the Ministry of Agriculture. The number of organic farms in the country at the end of 2009 was just under 2,700, an increase of 50 percent on the previous year that is due at least in part to government subsidies. I discussed the growth in the sector with Vojtěch Kotecký of the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth.

“It’s definitely good news for both the Czech countryside and Czech consumers. The countryside will gain from more birds, more plants in organic fields. And consumers will find more Czech domestic organic foods in shops and supermarkets.”

Now 9.38 percent of agricultural land in this country is given over to organic farming. Do you know how that compares to the situation in other European countries?

“We are, say, one of the better medium countries in Europe. There are some countries that are in front of us, like Austria. But we are definitely ahead of some others, especially new member states of the European Union.”

What is the profile, so to speak, of organic farming in the Czech Republic? What kind of foodstuffs are being produced here?

“We have got quite a wide range of organic foods, but one problem with organic farming in this country is that most of our organic land is meadows and pastures. Which is fine, but the difference between organic and non-organic farming in meadows and pastures is rather marginal, so the government should do more to support organic farming on arable land, where it’s much more important.”

Also last week there was a story in the news about a slowing of growth in sales of organic foods, it slowed to only five percent last year – do you think that with the economic crisis that people will be less prepared to spend more money on organic foods?

“Well, this is a natural reaction to the economic recession: people have less money so they buy less organic food, which is relatively expensive. But a sort of revealing fact is that people do not actually buy less organic food, they even buy more organic food, but the growth has slowed, so we continue to have some substantial growth, even if it is lower.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
“I think we will return to fast growth immediately after the recession ends. And perhaps more importantly in the long term, and that is what is most important for the organic sector, prices will go down and will continue to go down. So people will be able to buy more and cheaper organic food.”