What can we learn from Denmark – The World’s Leading Organic Food Nation
‘What over 3,000 farmers did in Denmark’, is a triumphant story. They achieved sales of organic food products worth over EUR 883 million in 2012 and have almost tripled their numbers by 2017. The point of question and surprise is, ‘how did they achieve such success with 245,000 hectares of agricultural land for organic farming?’. They now lead the chart of the international organic food market with the largest share.
If I had to answer this question with no analysis — I see that it is a result of a consistent balance between committed collaboration and smart marketing.
It is a political priority.
In 2015, a 67-point plan was announced by the Danish government. It was designed to double-down its organic production through public sector channels. This involved regulatory efforts, the partnership with private sector institutions, the involvement of different public sector bodies, and a robust marketing strategy.
It invited municipalities, regions, and ministries to include mandatory organic food in the menus of canteens, hospitals and daycare institutions. This was a strategic move. These public places housed citizens who were served almost 800,000 per day. The Defence Minister of Denmark also added organic food on his priority list. He executed this by serving organic food in defence canteens which amounted to 1.1 million kilos each year. Similarly, the education minister used the public school reform to strengthen education and awareness of organic foods and farming among children and young adults.
To achieve the objective of this plan, the government took certification process and the use of the logo on organic food seriously. This began by increasing awareness rapidly among consumers. 98% of Danish buyers are familiar with the logo that certifies organic food produced in Denmark. The certification process included stringent rules that were to be adhered by the landowners and farmers in the food cultivation process. Those who fulfilled these rules were able to receive the logo in return. It not only ensured organic ways of food production but also became a marketing tool. It helped with better positioning and brand recognition among consumers of organic food.
No sales channel left unturned
Numbers speak that sales of organic food were most achieved by supermarkets and discount stores. Cumulatively they accounted for more than 80 percent of sales. But, the online channel joined the list of most performing sales channel in 2017. It contributed to 11 percent of the sales. Mini markets, health food stores were also included in the list of channels that promoted organic food sales.
Another channel that contributed to their sales were exports. In 2016, Denmark reported export sales of organic food products worth €322 million. Since then, this number has been increasing.
Collaboration, trust & discipline
An effective collaborative effort has led to the success of high sales of organic foods. This includes political involvement, government subsidies, education and awareness, and encouragement of conscient buying and selling. Danish farmers, food distribution companies, and trade associations have introduced voluntary guidelines that are stringent. They included prohibiting the use of nitrite in processed foods; a reduction in the use of fertilisers and a total transportation time of live animals that must not exceed 8 hours – direct from production unit to the slaughterhouse.
Well being & no food wastage
Food wastage was also brought under the agenda of organic food production in Denmark. Denmark brought down food wastage by 25 percent in five years, with the help of volunteers, and NGOs. They have also raised the bar of well being, by bringing organic food into fast-food centres and raising fast food workers’ wage to $20 per hour.
The list of what we can learn out of this story is endless. I am inspired to know that, they have expanded the scope of organic foods by the end of this milestone, adding more food types to the list. Their organic product category not only includes grains, fruits, and vegetables, but also consists of dairy, eggs, and meat.
There is still more to go
With the recent number of an additional 1,000 farmers who have applied for aid to convert to ecology or expand their eco-areas by 2018, I see how committed their farming community is towards organic farming. The number of farmers who are converting more and more of their lands into organic farmlands is increasing each year. The government has again launched an agenda to strengthen the existing plan of implementing organic farming and other sustainable forms of cultivation within the country.
The government with the rest of organic farming ecosystem in the country acknowledges that there is still room for improvement in this field. This provides a testimony for striving nations to improve and keep trying until we can accomplish an ambitious dream of feeding the world in an organic and sustainable way.
Especially for India, with the proven project of Sikkim, domestically, and that of Denmark, internationally, we have a great direction and scope for improvement. To make organic farming a success India, I see that a piecemeal approach of taking small bites at a time would be a good beginning. Apart from that Denmark teaches us that we should build cohesive and integrated plans with stipulated deadlines to make it a reality across the country.