Organic Farming in Poland as Example of Organic Farming in CEE Countries - from farm to plate", 25-29 July 2005, Warsaw and Culavia - Pomerania,
ENAOS 2005 - 4th ENAOS Summer Meeting

organised within the framework of the Avalon Network Project financed by

European Commision
Warsaw Agricultural University,
Faculty of Human Nutricion and Consumer Science,
Faculty of Agriculture and Biology
Dutch National Postcode Lottery Ministry of National Education And Sport
Country presentations

ITALY - organic food market

Angelantonio D’Amario, Fabio Marzoli, Francesco Martino, Michele Morettini

The organic market in Italy has continuously growning during the past years. The economic value of the Italian organic market is estimated to be around 1.45 billion Euro. It is therefore no surprise that the big national companies and the Italian subsidiaries of multinational corporations have shown great interest in organic agriculture. In the second half of the 90’s the supermarkets have entered to this niche sector, most of them with their own private label. Many fairs and markets are now devoted to organic agriculture. The largest fair is held in Bologna in September (SANA).

Supply of organic foods

From data provided by Italian inspection bodies emerge that, up to 31 December 2003, the operators of the organic sector were 48,473 of whom 42,185 farmers, 1,849 farmers/processors, 4,264 processors and 175 importers. About the diffusion on the Italian regions: Sicily, Sardinia, Emilia Romagna, Apulia, and Calabria are the most important regions (See table 7).

Mostly in south Italy are localized organic farms while in the north the processors and importers. The surface cultivated with organic systems is about 1,052,002 hectares of which 70% are forages, meadows, grazes and cereals; the remaining part are constituted by olive trees, grapevine, citruses, fruits and industrial plants (See tables 8, 9, 10).

Over a third of all Italian organic production is exported, mainly to other European countries, but also to the USA and Japan. Among exported Italian organic products are:

  • Fruit and vegetables (top-quality, owing to the favourable climatic conditions and the professional skill of the producers)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (olive trees have been grown in Italy since ancient times, and Italian olives offer a great variety of scents and flavours, ranging from the most delicate aroma to an intense, fruity bouquet)
  • Wine (with excellent award-winning products highly praised in the most important international wine events).
  • Cheeses (ranging from the celebrated Parmigiano Reggiano to the rarest traditional specialities).
  • Pasta (whole-wheat, white, either plain or with herbs or spices)

Table 7 Operators of the organic sector.

Table 8 Cereal details.


Table 9 Total surfaces of organic farms.


Table 10 Industrial crops details.

The animal production is: 189,806 bovines cattle (milk and meat), 537,397 goats, 20,513 pigs, and 1,287,131 chickens etc (See table 11).

Today consortia and trading companies increasingly plan production and crops together with single farms. To steer the growth of the organic segment safely, efficiently and with appropriate instruments considerable investments are necessary. This will ensure an increasingly larger choice of products on offer, a better service, guaranteed product quality, and the continuous monitoring of the evolution of consumer demands. This, in turn, will mean an improved planning of product availability for trading operators and for the consumers as well as lower prices and higher quality standards.

Table 11 Organic animal production.

Demand of organic foods

The value of Italian purchase of organic products is about 301 millions euro. The categories of products that Italians prefer consume are: milk and dairy products (26%), fruits and vegetables (16%), dietary supplements and dietetic food (10%), beverages (9%), biscuits and cookies (8%) and childhood products (6%).

These choices shows that Italians prefer to buy organic products when they want to be sure of their safeness.

Independently from the categories the following products are the best sold in the organic sector: yogurt, fresh vegetables, eggs, fruits beverages, baby food, fresh milk and dietary cookies.

All the above mentioned products are the 45,34% of the total amount value of the Italian organic purchase. Moreover many consumers that began to buy these products continue to buy them regularly.

The best increase for the organic purchases has been during the year 2001. Food scares about mad cow disease led to an acceleration of the growth: in the first three months of 2001, the greatest wholesalers reported a growth in sales volume from 40 to 65% in respect of the same months of 2000.

After this “emotional” growth the purchases have lightly decreased: in 2002 Italians bought 1.6% less product (in volume) in comparison to 2001.

The products that have recorded the higher decrease are: baby foods (-16% in volume; -11,9% in value), milk and dairy products (-3% in volume; +33,5% in value), fruits and vegetables (-3% in volume; +28,2% in value), beverages (-2% in volume; +40% in value), pasta and rice (-1% in volume, +23,2% in value). An opposite trend has been that of meat and derived products (+9% in volume; +13,6% in value) and that of eggs (+29% in volume; +27,6% in value).

The consumers

Overcame the initial approach of Italians to the organic products now is possible to delineate the organic consumer. The largest concentration of consumers buying organic products is in the northern regions of Italy, where the industrial and economic structure is stronger. Most of the organic products are however produced in the southern, more agriculturally oriented, and warmer part of the country.

The average consumer of organic products is between 30 and 60 years old, lives in a city or large town in the north of the country, has an average or higher than average education, and is in the upper middle or upper income bracket.

They are partially conscious to pay a premium price, which is justified by health related justifications. A survey has shown that 73% of Italians give a right definition of organics and know some key characteristics (no chemicals, more naturalness), 22 % give not wrong but vague definitions ("healthy, genuine, safer"). Moreover 77% of the Italian adults think organic food is healthier,  64% that organic food is different from conventional, 63% think organics taste better, 75% think that organic production is  safer for the environment (and 80% think organic products are expensive). To eat high quality, better-tasting and ecologically sound food, 68% of Italians are surely (26%) or maybe (42%) willing to pay a higher price.

Indeed, one of the major obstacles to increase in demand of organic products in Italy is the consumer lack of information and confusion. In the above mentioned survey only few respondents are classified as "highly informed" while most consumers have a very low level of information, and confuse organic products with "natural", "low-input" or even "wholemeal" and "macrobiotic" products. Among these, someone believe that organic products are only produced in Italy and almost all the remaining part simply does not know if imported products could be labelled as "organic".

Prices and Economic Aspects

Premium prices for organic products are still relevant, especially at the retail level for processed imported goods. Imports are quite important for processed goods except for pasta and noodles (of which Italy is a net exporter) and fruit and vegetables. Imported milk has recently had a sharp increase. The prices paid for organic cereals are 30 to 40 per cent higher than for conventional crops. Prices for organic fruit and vegetables, though, vary according to the season and are at times comparable to the conventional ones.

Supermarket, non-organic

Shops, organic

Organic farmers market

Supermarket, organic

Olive oil








































White wine















Baby food





Table 12 Comparison of prices (June 2001, units 1kg/l or 1 egg)

Because of the small-scale processing plants and inefficiencies in distribution channels, processed food often has very large premium prices.

A three-year long economic analysis of organic and conventional arable farms has shown that, due to premium prices, organic farms are as profitable as comparable conventional farms. In addition, it has been shown that organic farming is not always more labour intensive.

Marketing Channels

In the year 2002 about 94% of the total volume ( 89% in value) of organic food sold in Italy was bought on supermarkets. The others marketing channels are: traditional and specialized shops (3% in volume and 7% in value), agritourism and collettive catering (2.4% in volume and 3% in value) and direct sale (about 1%).


The increase of availability of organic products on supermarkets has been one of the reasons of the growing of the organic market. Mostly they have launched their own line of organic products with advertising, TV commercial, sampling corner in some hundreds of supermarkets, press conferences etc. The whole organic market has take advantage of this marketing operation.

On the other hand supermarkets can not be the only distribution channel for organic products. Many consumers still prefer traditional shops or the direct sale from the farmer because of the perception of natural and genuine systems of production. Moreover not all organic farms are able to face with supermarket; thus others distribution channels will continue to play an important role on the organic market

Specialised Shops

There are about 1000 shops in Italy that specialise in organic food, two thirds of which are located in the north of the country. They are mostly independent shops, smaller than 100 square metres. There are also, of course, larger outlets (between 200 and 500 square metres) and about fifty franchise shops of regional or nation-wide chains. The most important franchisor is Naturasì, with about 30 franchisee superettes (some are butchers, called "Carnesì").

Organic Catering

There are currently about a hundred organic restaurants, most of which are located in the northern and central regions and in the larger towns. For the greater part, they are vegetarian or macrobiotic restaurants.

A very interesting and rapidly growing phenomenon is that of organic school cafeterias. Originating from a 1980s pilot project in the Cesena area, they now serve more than 600,000 children from nursery to middle schools in metropolitan areas (Rome, Bologna, Turin, Padua) as well as in smaller towns. Since 1999 there have been laws compellling municipalities and hospitals to use daily some organic, typical and traditional food in their catering services. The region Friuli Venezia Giulia supports municipalities, which adopt organic catering with a considerable grant (30% of the total cost). Also Tuscany and the Marche give contributions to Municipalities so that prices can be lowered. 

41 towns in the Milan district have organic school meals, 34 in the Trento district, 32 in the Udine district. But the real leader is Modena province: 22 out of its 47 towns are serving organic foods at school.

The regional law no. 29/2002 of Emilia Romagna (strongly promoted by the Green regional deputy Daniela Guerra) imposes a 100% organic diet for nursery and primary schools (from 3 months to 10 years), and at least 35% in advanced schools, universities and hospitals. Other products have to be traditional, typical or coming from certified IPM. As current contracts will expire, school meals will be put out to the new contract, and gradually, before 2005, in every school of the region all 350,000 children (and 35,000 teachers and attendants) will eat organic.

Further Reading



ENOAS Summer Meeting IV: Introduction | Organizers | List of participants | Meeting Plan | Lectures and presentation | Country presentation | Work groups | Excursions / Visits

Organizers; Warsaw Agricultural University (SGGW) | Faculty of Human Nutrition and Consumer Sciences | The Faculty of Agriculture and Biology | Education in organic farming at SGGW | Scientific Association of Agriculture Students - yesterday and today | Scientific Assiociation of Nutrition and Dietetics Students | ENOAS - European Network of Organic Agriculture Students - past, present and future | Avalon Foundation

Organic farming and market in Poland

Country presentations: COLOMBIA - General situation of organic agriculture in Colombia –organic food market in Colombia | HUNGARY - Situation of ecological agriculture in Hungary | ITALY - organic food market | SLOVAKIA – Ecological agriculture | FINLAND - Organic markets in Finland

Reports of visits: BIODYNAMIC FARM, Education Center of R.STEINER Foundation in Prądocin | ROLMIĘS | Bakery SŁODKA | FARM of THE KUJAWSKIS | FARM and MILL of THE BABALSKIS | BIOFOOD

Chosen papers on organic farming: Barriers of conversion into organic production | Barriers of conversion into organic farming | Barriers of conversion into organic farming  | Role of direct sale in organic farming  | Social aspects of organic farming  | Social aspects of organic farming  | Multifunctionality of organic farming in Slovak Republic  | Multifunctionality of organic farming | Multifunctionality of organic farming | Multifunctionality of organic farming  | Multifunctionality of organic farming

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