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
Chosen papers on organic farming

Barriers of conversion into organic production

Anna Popławska

Organic production is a very specific way of farming so that it comes across many barriers not only in period of conversion but also during all cycle of production. As very natural and connected to the environment way of living it takes many values from the past and pay attention to maintenance biodiversity what is impeded by the increasing around conventional agriculture.

Main barrier of conversion is the difficulty and high expenses borne by the producer who convert specialized one-way productive conventional farm into multi-productive and self-efficient husbandry. During two years of conversion producer must realize that losts will be higher than incomes and invested money for plant and animal production return in the future. The main case of changing totally soil contents so as gain a complex system healthy and plenty of profitable microbia i.e. Fungi, Rhizobium bacteria, Actinomycetes is connected to complex change in cultivation and the whole issue of production (adequate staff, machinery, different chain of production and marketing).

The fact is that organic farms need high input of expensive labour which exceeds conventional considerably. It is also required in some periods of year seasonal substantial additional input which influences the additional costs. Especially labour for weeding (but also fear of diseases, pests) decide barrier of conversion into organic production.

The yields are considerably lower than conventional and more sensitive to exterior condition. With regard to non-using pesticides and changeable weather the crop may decrease but the quality of organic products remain always better. This issue is connected to insecurity of expected income and the flexible market.

The changeable, insecure demand for organic produce is the result of different expectations of consumers and producers. Expectations of consumers comprise issues as relability of organic products, conformity the rules with respect to production, processing and trade, agreement of expectations with respect to emvironment, animal welfare, health. Important are also quality (taste, smell, storability, health), safety (no residues of synthetic pesticides) inherent components (organic, mineral), toxic compounds (mycotoxins, plant derived toxins), lack of disease genes. Contents of positive elements, such as nutrients, vitamins, minerals and negative elements are significant in respect to food safety issues. From the other side producers are engaged in organic food production expecting higher income and conversion support, subsidies.

There is huge lack of market information (insufficient mainly on cost and added value) that should be overcome so as to create Fair Trade and give the opportunities for small-scale producers in developing countries. Only by unconventional models of production and commercialization is possible to offer opportunities for small-scale production.

The knowledge deficit is one of the many barriers to organic conversion. Farmers have to move from widely accepted conventional practices to different, unknown ones. It is important to forget many of them they have acquired under conventional farming and relearn to farm in more “ecologically” ways. They also should be able to use new forms of distribution and marketing.

The process of conversion towards organic farming relies largely on the transmission of knowledge from one farmer to another. This can take many different forms, ranging from informal civic interactions to more structured forms of interaction like farm visits, study groups and regional associations. Organic farmers need also a deeper insight on issues as marketing and commercialization. The local knowledge which producers require in decentralised food chains needs to be more than technical on-farm knowledge: it needs to include commercial knowledge about specialized local markets as well as know-how knowledge about the networks through which producers and distributors can liaise to service markets beyond the locality.

Not clearly regulated legal issue contributes to occurence of bottlenecks related to the different stakeholders involved in organic productions: producers, chains, consumers. Different stakeholders have a various perspectives on product image using differing pricing strategies according to their personal tactics. Nowadays production chains of organic products are not quite complex.

Various types of labelling products in many countries are also the outcome of this state. Eco-labelling is seen as “technical trade barrier”.

Though organic certification is not based on explicit health claims, the majority of the consumers identify organic labels as symbols of food safety and quality. The non-homogeneous organic market can spoil in the future good mark of organic products and interfere with Fair Trade.

The decrease in conversion rate can be also influenced by the power of the industrial food chains which dominates the market and hinders the developement of the organic food chains.

There is also a risk of uncertainty about future environmental policy. Within the possibilities to increase organic production and consumption education plays a very essential role. Only by creating a deeper awareness of ecological issues is possible to awake people’s appreciation to organic agriculture. Consumers need to assume a more active role in organic chains, especially in decentralized ones, for instance consumer-supported agriculture, direct distribution schemes or local food links.

By supporting this kind of organic chains, producers would be able to get a higher profit for their products.

Another main reason against transition to organic are high costs of certification and impeded approach to certifing institutions. That’s why in many places occur local sales which do not require certification; so called “hidden organic”. This situation deepens the fact that many semi- subsistence farms have no or restricted access to certification. To this amount should also be added farms in transition not yet certified.

Remaining fresh in memory are the experiences with non-sustainable “organic by default” agriculture which impresses a stamp on whole area of production.

In developing countries there is an actual issue of insecure land tenure. The main livelihood is farming but it determinated fact that the soil is very low quality. The common poverty causes the division of land during generations and advanced decrease of arable area. Conversion to organic farming should be there popularize as better environmentally social financial livelihood which give possibility smallholder farmers improved standards of living through developing the exports of organic products. That will lead to increased value for marginal lands.

Agro-industrial aid programs do not always contribute directly to support of biological agriculture development. The farmers start activity widely focusing on premium prices and subsidies than production and handlung requirements. They pay more attention on the opportunity to gain new business contract than employing natural processes with reducing environmental impact. For that reason and the others the World Trade Organisation sets about removing obstacles to free movement of goods by gradual abolition of agricultural subsidies.

The price of products is the main factor determinating conversion. The issue diminishing organic farming is the huge differences in price premiums (between both farmgate and consumer) which increase distance between producer and consumer. Nevertheless premium prices at farmgate are necessary for profitable organic agriculture.

In spite of occurance many reasons against transition to organic, the barriers of conversion should be reduced thinking about reasonable perhaps not very often conscious demands of population for organic products. The great growth of conventional food production ought to be confined in favour organic farming for the purpose of preserving old-time agricultural values.


  • Ynte K. Van Dam 2005.07.12 Organic Agriculture A Market Perspective
  • Morgan K., and J. Murdoch. 2000. Organic vs. Conventional agriculture: knowledge, power and innovation in the food chains. Geoforum, 31, 159-173
  • Reynolds, L.T.2004. The Globalization of Organic Agro-Food Networks. 2005.
  • World development, 32 (5), 725-743
  • Van Bruggen, A.H.C., F.M. Rambouts and E. Franz. 2005. Organic Food chains. In science of Organic Production: From Ecology to Socio-Economics. Biological Farming System Group, Wageningen University. Ch. 15.



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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