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Sales of organic foods soar

The market for organic food and other products is booming in Switzerland, with sales last year reaching the SFr600 million mark. Experts say the trend is going to continue but for the time being, production cannot keep up with demand.

This content was published on January 14, 2000 - 21:08

The market for organic food and other products is booming in Switzerland, with sales last year reaching the SFr600 million mark (SFr473 million in 1998). Experts say the trend is going to continue but for the time being, production cannot keep up with demand.

Market leader Co-op, Switzerland's number two retailer behind Migros, reports that its sales of organic products last year increased by a third.

"We have developed this market from simply being a niche," said Co-op spokesman Karl Weisskopf . "After an increase of 29 per cent in 1998, last year's sales of organic and ecologically-based products rose 35 per cent to more than SFr540 million," he added.

More than half of those Co-op sales are from genuine organic products which are allowed to bear a label depicting a bud. The competition also reports strong growth, with provisional figures around 25 per cent up on 1998 sales of SFr120 million.

The retailers are in no doubt that the booming market will go from strength to strength, with Co-op reckoning on sales topping the SFr1 billion mark within the next five years. This will include food, textiles, eco-products and goods which have been produced using fair trade guidelines, such as those of the Max Havelaar Foundation.

"We initially thought that the billion franc mark would only be reached in the year 2008," said Co-op's Felix Wehrle. But he warned that to achieve the figure, there had to be massive price reductions for milk and meat.

While consumers are providing the demand, it seems that the offer cannot keep up with the growing enthusiasm for organic food.

"I don't want to paint a negative picture", said Christof Dietler, director of Bio Suisse, the Swiss Association of Organic Agriculture Organisations. "But when the offer is always lagging behind demand, the credibility of Migros and Co-op taking over the organic market has to be questioned," he added.

There are shortages in all organic production areas, with cereals, Gruyère cheese and wine singled out for mention.

Bio Suisse says it is not clear how many more Swiss farmers will react to the growing demand by switching to organic production. Last year, 4,677 farmers were using eight per cent of the country's cultivated land to produce according to the association's regulations.

From staff and wire reports










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