The organic sector in pandemic times: Health, a value-based transformation and the eco-turnaround were the focus in 2020. This is because, in addition to its health, economic and social impacts, the Corona crisis also shines a spotlight on the need for an eco- and food transformation, as well as on concepts that transformation movements have already designed. Many are suitable for implementation, especially if groups cooperate creatively and work together for transformation. The main theme of the BIOFACH 2021 eSPECIAL is therefore a highly relevant one: Shaping Transformation. Stronger. Together. The digital BIOFACH / VIVANESS 2021 eSPECIAL will take place from 17 - 19 February.
Biofach und Vivaness 2020 took place just before the first lockdown in Germany.
Even though the balance of the planet has been severely disturbed not only by the pandemic, but also by the climate crisis, the extinction of species and the exploitation of natural resources, it also shows that fundamental values are sustainable. Solidarity, established relationships and sustainable systems stand the test of time, are resilient. Nevertheless, or precisely for this reason, the global organic movement, which is based on these values, needs constant further development, in addition to the global economic system, which is in urgent need of a future-oriented transformation at all levels of value creation. It can already serve as a role model in many places. By bundling and cooperating with other transformation movements, it can succeed all the more. This becomes clear in the series of interviews on the main topic.
The implementation of the eco-transformation does not only take place in the fields, it also requires a new way of thinking with regard to eating habits and consumer behaviour. And last but not least, a constructive joint shaping of change with many alliance partners, a transformation at all levels: For the climate, for more biodiversity, for more fairness in the supply chain and for food justice.
More consumer sensitivity for nutrition and health
Well-familiar routines, daily routines have been challenged in all areas of our lives since the onset of the Corona crisis. What belonged to our often little valued pre-Covid normality - always filled shelves in the shops, specialities from the most distant countries, global freedom of movement and much more, we now find restricted. As a result, things take on a new significance: healthy eating, organic products, the origin and processing of products and regional goods. Georg Kaiser, managing director of the chain shop Bio Company in Berlin said:
"At Bio Company we feel an even stronger demand for regional food than before anyway. Through good intuition and forward-looking management, our supply chains are well secured."
German transformation researcher and social psychologist Harald Welzer says the pandemic is opening the eyes of many consumers. As if through a burning glass, many suddenly see the connections between the pandemic and the exploitation of the planet - the whole system is disturbed. This leads to a sensitisation of consumers to the relationship between nutrition and health. Strengthening the immune system as protection against the virus is even in focus in some cases, and many are increasingly turning to organic food.
Pandemic fuels organic demand worldwide
Amarjit Sahota, international organic market expert and founder of Organic Monitor Market Research, now Ecovia Intelligence, London, speaks of a
"coronavirus boost for the global organic industry". From India to Europe to the USA, wholesalers and retailers are seeing a surge in demand of up to 40% year-on-year as a result of the pandemic.
Most notably, online business is booming so much that Amazon, owner of organic giant Whole Foods, has had to cut back on online organic food purchases in the US in between to keep up with the huge demand, Sahota reports. The new health consciousness is having a big effect in two ways. Consumers are consistently buying more organic products all over the world. Hoarding purchases also led to empty shelves and supply problems in individual product groups in the German health food trade during the uncertain times of the first lockdown. In the meantime, the situation has calmed down and the logistics, even for goods from other European countries and overseas, are working again.
Forecast: The international organic industry will continue to benefit
Sahota looks back at organic market development: organic food was first introduced on a large scale in the early 1990s. It took more than 15 years for global sales of organic products to reach around 50 billion US dollars in 2008. Ten years (2018) later, sales exceeded the $100 billion mark. As COVID-19 changes the way we shop and eat, the next leap to US$150 billion could happen within the next 5 years, Sahota predicts. However, some conditions are important to make the growth of the organic sector fair for all. The groundwork has been laid, as Lukas Nossol also points out:
"While globalised commodity strands are difficult to control, also because one partly no longer knows the suppliers, the organic sector is well networked. The specialised trade knows its counterpart, with whom one can talk and work out solutions. Therefore, we are looking confidently to the coming year 2021."
Balance between supplier countries and sales markets disturbed
However, it is also a fact that "the international supply network has come under pressure", says Sahota. He explains the context:
"Many of the raw materials used by European and North American organic food companies come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The national lockdowns and uncertainties in dealing with the pandemic have disrupted many supply chains for the time being. Small-scale organic farmers were no longer able to bring in their harvests or export them, or only to a limited extent, due to the Corona crisis. Once again, they are the victims of a crisis.
Take India, for example: the country is a source of organic tea, herbs, spices and other important organic raw materials. At the same time, the subcontinent is one of the hardest hit by Covid-19 worldwide.
Impressions from BIOFACH 2020
Transformation: The change in our lifestyle
Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, organic farmer and long-time chairman of the German umbrella organisation Bund Ökologischer Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW) and national sponsor of BIOFACH, explains,
a decisive factor for making progress in the eco-turnaround is to link the various transformation movements in such a way that they work creatively and mutually reinforcing in the same direction. Climate protection is one of the measures with the highest priority:
"Land use has a considerable influence on our climate impact as a national economy. This shows all the more how important it is to actively support the climate protection movement and to take all possible measures to reduce CO2 emissions," says Dr Löwenstein.