Organic Processing and Trade Association

Inspiring presentation Paul Holmbeck at General Assembly 19 May

‘25% organic in 2030, we can make it’

The main dish of the General Assembly was for sure the lunch-session with guest speaker Paul Holmbeck, until spring 2020 director of Organic Denmark, recent winner of the One World Award and candidate for the IFOAM world board. Paul presented the keys of organic success in Denmark, where market and agriculture is at the level of 14% share of the total food and agriculture. Some key-recommendations out of Paul’s experience;

  • Be well organized (95% of organic sector in Denmark is part of Organic Denmark) otherwise strong organized conventional agrofood sector will set the agenda for organic. And this is needed in the international arena as well to become successful in organic lobby in Brussels and remain the agenda-setter for organic on EU level.
  • Be active in the whole chain and combine push and pull instruments for a balanced upscaling of organic; a disbalance that once occured 20 years ago is still not forgotten…
  • Involve and convince the big retailers with the added value of organic for their business, for instance with the positive attitude of organic consumers and their willing to spend more money on quality food.
  • Speak out the added values of organic sound and clear to the consumer, like reduction of chemicals in your food, contribution of organic agriculture to reduce the climate crisis, organic and clean water, organic and biodiversity, etc…
  • …but never express negative towards conventional: don’t waste your energy there. And being organic is offensive enough for the agrochemical industry – do not challenge them further with negative communication about them.

Ronald van Marlen (NaNa Bio) reacted enthusiastic from his company perspective, especially on the examples of promotion. He stressed the recommendation of empowerment of organic sector by themselves in the middle and speak out on topics like climate and poison as well in promotional campaigns and consumer communication as Organic Denmark has done in the recent past. Positive communications are the key.

Michael Wilde (Bionext) was giving some feedback from association and umbrella perspective. With some envy: “Netherlands is far away from the success in Denmark.  Policy makers needs to be educated on “organic”. Capacity building in all stakeholders including ministries is needed.”

Jan Groen (GreenOrganics) mentioned that a fast move is needed. “The culture in societies is different. In the Netherlands there is less willingness for changing the systems. Paul is recommending to be innovative and to be the front runner. Create a different food system this is the message and cooperative approach at word wide level is needed.”

Paul reflected furthermore on the question of local, national and international approaches. “The approach is very depending on the individual topic. In some cases it is better to start small, on local levels, as we did with the organic public procurement approach and finally go national. In other cases it is better to start national or international. The obligation of national programs for organic is a very interesting instrument coming years.”

You can find Paul Holmbecks inspiring presentation here.

And what can OPTA contribute?

Bavo van den Idsert, OPTA Association manager, stressed the importance of being organized as organic trading and processing network, not only on national but also on international EU level and even beyond. The power of the international organic network is needed to set the agenda ourselves, as Organic Denmark managed on national level. “The playing ground in the societies for the shift of the food system to a sustainable organic is there. We are watching the final fight around the budget of the renewed CAP, that will start in 2023. The conventional lobby group which are very strong and influence national governments to maintain as much billions as they can for the flat hectare support. And when the budget for ECO-schemes is set, then the conventional industry will lobby for new concepts that fit into the ECO-schemes. We have to be well organized to set the narrative for sustainable food and agriculture in Europe. We can be optimistic and self-confident, because the EU Commission took over the narrative of organic agriculture and food with the goal of 25% organic in 2030. We have to support the Commission in this aim and be “woke” that we are not replaced by other narratives like “regenerative agriculture”.” 

Katja Ziegler, OPTA board member, summarized the discussion and gave a big thanks to Paul Holmbeck, the other people that contributed to the discussion and everybody who attended the GA lunch-session. Katja is mentioning that Suisse will vote in June on banning all pesticide in agriculture. That could be a new break-through and a way to follow in other countries as well. And she invited all members to take notice of the hopefully first live event of 9 and 10 November in Brussels.

PS: Some supportive organic amendments has reached a big political majority in the Netherlands on 25 May. For instance, to assure that organic farmers receive automatically the flat rate payments out of the first pillar of the CAP, together with the additional ECO-scheme payments and secondly the creation of an agreement between government and big retail with obligations for retail to promote and sell more organic. These amendments are ingredients for a National Organic Action-plan that is asked by the EU Commission to all EU member-states.  


For further information:

FiBL – Mariateresa Lazzaro:

OPTA – Bavo van den Idsert: