The U.S. organic industry has rebounded from a brief downturn during the 2007-09 recession and is back in expansion mode, according to an article titled “Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Industry” in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves publication.
In fact, U.S. demand for organically produced goods has grown continuously since USDA established national standards for organic production and processing in 2002, the article said.
According to industry analysts, U.S. organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 — more than 4% of total at-home food sales. That was up 11% from 2011.
Data from industry sources indicate that “the market share of organic sales held by various food categories has been remarkably stable over the last decade,” the article said.
Produce and dairy remain the top organic food categories. They accounted for 43% and 15% respectively of organic sales in 2012.
Certified organic acreage has increased substantially in recent years.
The Economic Research Service, which has tracked certified acreage since 1997, estimates that the U.S. had 3.1 million acres of certified organic cropland in 2011.
“Certified cropland dipped between 2008 and 2010 as sluggish growth in consumer demand during the recession dampened the short-term outlook for organic producers,” the article said. “However, the growth in certified acreage of both cropland and pastureland has more than recovered those losses and has reestablished its upward trajectory.
“Fruit and vegetable growers and producers in other high-value, market-driven sectors have adopted organic management systems much more widely than producers of other crops, although they typically do not require large amounts of land to produce such crops.”
Fruits and vegetables accounted for an estimated 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2011 but only 16% of certified organic cropland. Certified organic cropland made up about 0.7% of U.S. cropland in 2011.
Organic vegetables made up 6% of U.S. vegetable acreage, the article said, and organic fruits and nuts accounted for 4%.
“Markets for organic vegetables, fruits and herbs have been developing for decades in the U.S., and fresh produce is still the top-selling organic category in retail sales,” USDA said.
The popularity of organic produce isn’t limited to the U.S.
Growth in organic agricultural production is occurring in developed and developing nations throughout the world, according to the USDA article. As a result, competition for major consumer markets in developed countries is on the rise.
“U.S. producers have been challenged to keep pace with growing consumer demand for organic products for over a decade, and new statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that organic imports play a key role in meeting U.S. demand,” USDA said.
Bananas and other tropical and subtropical crops that are not produced in great numbers in the U.S. are among the top imported organic product, the article said.
At the same time, organic products the U.S. Department of Commerce tracks that U.S. grower-shippers export are mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, which have the highest organic adoption levels in the U.S., according to the article. And their value is gaining.
“Two-thirds of the organic product exports that Commerce is tracking showed some increase in value between 2011 and 2012, with organic apple exports from the U.S. more than doubling in value,” the article said.
Most U.S. organic fresh fruit and vegetables exports increased in 2012, the article said, with apple, pears, cauliflower and broccoli showing some of the biggest boosts in value.