Demand for Organic Accelerates
Earning organic certification isn’t easy. But booming demand is increasing the number of domestic organic farms, now estimated at 10,000. Still, it’s not enough to supply even organics’ 2.5 percent slice of the national food market. America’s companies must look to places like Europe, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa to fill the organic gap.
“We’re doing a lot of scrambling,” says Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO of Clif Bar, which recently located 85,000 pounds of organic almonds for its high-energy bars in Spain. Other shortages have popped up in apricots, blueberries, cashews, hazelnuts, brown rice syrup and oats.
Barbara Robinson, head of the Agriculture Department’s National Organic Program that provides the “USDA Organic” seal for certified products, isn’t surprised that the United States is importing far more organic food than it exports. The same holds true for conventional food. But it’s a trend bound to prompt more interest by growers and grocers as organic sales annually rise 15 to 21 percent, compared with just 2 to 4 percent for total food sales.
Scientist Urvashi Rangan with Consumers Union is quick to assure us that “if [food]stuff comes in from overseas, and it’s got an organic label on it, it had to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards in order to get here.”