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france news

Beef cattle of the organic experimental farm of Thorigné d’Anjou – June 2017 (meeting Optialibio project)


Since 2010, France knows an increase of organic agriculture, which has continued till 2018. Several organizations and stakeholders are involved in organic farming: producers, researchers, teachers, advisors, processors...


Organic French figures

The French organic observatory’s figures produced by the Agence BIO show that, on December 31st, 2017, 54,044 operators were engaged in organic farming in France, what’s representing + 14.7% in one year. Of these operators, 36,691 are producers, bringing the share of French farms engaged in organic farming to 8.3%. French organic surfaces reach 1.78 million hectares, which corresponds to 6.59%. The processing, distribution or import companies represented 17,353 operators of which: 12,286 transformers; 4,783 distributors; 284 importers. The consumption of organic products continues to grow. In 2017, the market for organic food products reached more than 8.3 billion euros, an increase of 17% in one year.



In 2017, it is estimated that organic trades account for almost 134,500 direct jobs (jobs in organic farms and those related to processing and distribution activities). While agricultural employment fell at an average annual rate of -1.1% between 2010 and 2015, employment in organic agricultural production increased by 10,669 full-time jobs between 2017 and 2016, representing +13%.



Some crops are well developed in organic agriculture: organic dried vegetables surface represent 27.9% of total surface in this production; organic fruits 19.8%; aromatic and medicinal plants 19.5%; vineyard 10% and forage fields 9.4%. On the contrary, some crops are not developed too much, in particular fresh vegetables (6.1%) and cereals (3.4%). 




In the continuity of 2016, the development of organic farms has remained strong and concerns all species in 2017.


The part of organic livestock compared to the total of French livestock is 4.93% for cows (4.53% for beef cows et 5.40% for dairy cows), 7.09% for sheep, 7.75% for goats, 1.07% for porks. Organic broilers represent 1.40% of the total and poultry hens 10.11%.


Public policy


The first plan for the organic farming development began in 1998 and several plans followed. Since 2008, these plans concern large area: producers, advisors, teachers, researchers, processors… These plans played a role in the organic farming development, as the strong demand for consumption and as the several organizations and stakeholders working in organic farming. In June, The French Minister of Agriculture and Food presented the new plan for organic farming development “Ambition Bio 2022 Program”, which has a budget of 1.1 billion euros and is organized into 7 major axes:


  • Axis 1: Develop production to reach the 15% of French agricultural area cultivated in organic by 2022;
  • Axis 2: Structure the sectors via the “Avenir Bio” Fund; Currently endowed with 4 million euros, the Future Bio Fund will be increased by 2 million euros from 2018;
  • Axis 3: Develop consumption and support the supply of organic products for all consumers, including the poorest and most vulnerable publics; In addition to the goal of 20% bio in public catering by 2022, a common desire of organic stakeholders is to encourage the offer in collective and commercial catering;
  • Axis 4: Redefining research priorities;
  • Axis 5: Train the actors;
  • Axis 6: Adapt the regulations; On January 1st, 2021, a new European regulation will be applicable;
  • Axis 7: Organic farming in the French overseas territories.



Several organizations are involved in organic researches (technical Institutes in agriculture, national research centers…). 


At the end of 2017, in the National institute of agronomy research (INRA) transformed its AgriBio program into the 9th metaprogram of INRA. While the other 8 metaprograms were created in 2011, AgriBio is entering its 18th year.


Link to recent Agribio projects :

Two theses start in this context: - Operation and evaluation of diversified production systems in organic agriculture: references for the agro-ecological transition (UMRH); - Conditions for linking the greening of agriculture and food in the context of just sustainable development (SAD, Ecodevelopment).


Inra is also involved in European Core Organic call. Link to Inra’s projects into Core Organic + (2015-2018):


The French Organic farming technical institute (ITAB) will co-supervise another INRA thesis: "Design combinations of cropping systems at the farm level to manage soil health". The ITAB is involved in several research in organic farming, concerning crops and livestock, seeds and biodiversity, quality, processing… In 2017, ITAB was involved into 62 research projects, including 8 European projects.


ITAB Lab, created in 2017, is an association for research and innovation Bio. It is a collective of actors (Pôle agriculture biologique Massif Central, GRAB Avignon,IBB…) committed to research and innovation, coordination and capitalization of knowledge in AB (Pôle agriculture biologique Massif Central, GRAB Avignon,IBB…).


At the beginning of 2018, ITAB and ABioDoc, the French documentary centre specialized in organic farming, edited a bibliographic review on French technical-economic references in organic agriculture  


Some experimental farms are only or for part in organic farming : Thorigné d’Anjou (Pays de la Loire), Ferme des Bordes (Limousin), Ferme de Trévarez (Bretagne), Laqueuille (Auvergne) … managed by a technical institute, an agricultural chamber, the national agronomic research institute…

Several agricultural high schools have a farm or a part of their farm in organic farming, some time with a experimental station like P.A.I.S in Suscinio Higt school. Some private farms shelter experimental station, like Reine Mathilde plateforme in Normandy (farm is GAEC Gilbert).


French research examples in organic farming:


Salamix (June 2015 - May 2018), INRA, funded under the AgriBio 4 program.

The project consists in setting up an experiment based on the comparison of three farming systems producing meat from grassland resources (permanent meadows in mountain areas). It is a question of studying the interest of the sheep / cattle mix, in comparison with specialized sheep or cattle systems, in terms of finished meat production and quality, performance and animal health, grassland production, farmer work and environmental impacts. The project is conducted on the Inra site of Laqueuille (Massif Central), which is being converted to the AB.


Optialibio (Oct 2014 – June 2018), Idele (Tehnical institute in animal husbandry): this project (Optimization of autonomy and resistance to climatic hazards of organic cattle farming systems) aimed to produce references and tools to strengthen the adaptation capacities of organic cattle systems to climate hazards by improving their autonomy food.


Covalience: Co-design of management tools and assessment of cross-pollination selection for local adaptation and resilience of agro-ecosystems: case of maize (ITAB, CASDAR funds, 2018-2021).


Bt ID-1528: Tools for identifying, tracing and controlling Bacillus Thuringiensis contamination from fork to fork (Casdar 2015-2019, ITAB).


Resilait: Resilience of organic dairy systems; optimization of competitiveness factors and development of more efficient systems for future risk management (Casdar funds, 2016 - 2019 ITAB / IDELE, technical Institutes of animal breeding and of Organic farming).


French participation to European projects in organic farming examples:

Liveseed: Developing seeds and organic breeding in Europe (H2020, 2017-2021)

Diversifood: Enrich the diversity of cultivated plants through a multi-stakeholder approach to increase the performance and resilience of different agro-ecosystems, and develop new healthy and tasty products (EU, 2015-2019)


EcoOrchard (2015-2017) Innovative design and management to boost functional biodiversity of organic orchards, a Core Organic project