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Organic goods soar but farms slow to shift

The market for organic products within Switzerland grew seven per cent in 2009 to SFr1.55 billion ($1.46 billion), an umbrella group for organic producers has said.

Bio Suisse also said the number of farms producing those goods has slightly shrunk and urged farmers to shift from traditional agricultural production to organic methods. The market holds “vast potential”, it said.

Organic products, particularly fish and meat, grew noticeably in popularity last year. Together sales of those goods leapt more than 51 per cent in 2009, Bio Suisse said during its annual meeting south of the capital, Bern, on Tuesday.

Regina Fuhrer, president of Bio Suisse, said about 11 per cent of all farms in Switzerland, or 5,900 operations, were organic. That is 0.8 per cent fewer than the year before. Those farms used about 120,000 hectares of land combined, which is 0.3 per less than in 2008.

Farmers remain reluctant to switch to organic production. A survey by Bio Suisse and the Agroscope institute found the reasons are largely financial.

Bio Suisse wants the government to encourage a shift by increasing direct payments. Organic farmers received subsidies worth SFr28 million in 2009 out of SFr2.5 billion allocated that year. and agencies

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