Fair Spirit is investing heavily in organic farming with the aim to support farmers to switch from conventional farming to organic methods and practices, help producers get better prices for their organics, and launch a line of organic food, both processed and semi-processed, for the Southeast European and East European markets. Plans are afoot for setting up a food processing unit in Dobrogea region focusing on the export market, while another unit to package and label organic foods for the domestic market is under evaluation.
Romania is an agricultural powerhouse with approximately 15 million hectares under agricultural production, mostly crops. Once known as the bread basket of Europe and the cereal bowl of the Comecon countries, Romania’s agricultural output suffers from an imbalance that is increasingly hurting agricultural income. Crop production amounts for 73% of the total agricultural output, while animal farming output stood at 26%. In western Europe, most countries had achieved a better ratio between crop and animal production, depending more on the production of processed foods rather than bulk cereal trade in the commodities market.
Organic farming is growing steadily, and almost 75% of Romania’s organic produce is exported. Yet, organic farming remains a miniscule part of the total agricultural output. In 2015, organic farming accounted for less than 2% of the total irrigated land used in agriculture. However, the number of certified operators in organic farming grew at a faster rate as did the land area under organic production. At the same time, a number of big food brands such as Napolact, La Dorna, and Olympus have ventured into organic products.
Processing, packaging and marketing are the main weaknesses of Romania’s organic food sector. There is little consumer awareness about organic quality, and consumers are rarely willing to pay a little more for certified organic produce. Farmers can rarely invest in industrial processing and packaging equipment that conform to organic farming standards. With a higher demand abroad and a shortage of processing units at home, most of Romania’s organic produce found it way to supermarkets and speciality food stores in western Europe and the United States rather than the local market. Fair Spirit plans to bring processing, labeling and distribution facilities closer to farm producers in Romania so that more organic produce finds their way to the local market and helps build a sustainable rural economy.