Analysis distorts organic market in Canada

The recent analysis of Statistics Canada's data on organic fruit and vegetable production collected between 2000 and 2003 presents a distorted picture of the market for Canadian produced organic products, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

The analysis, written by William Parsons, appears in the April 2005 issue of VISTA on the Agri-Food Industry and the Farm Community, published by the Agriculture Division of Statistics Canada. The study focuses only on one segment of organic fruit and vegetable production — those farms selling directly to consumers through farm gate sales or farmers' markets.

"This analysis has a narrow focus and is not indicative of the state of Canada's organic agriculture as a whole," said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director. "It also does not distinguish between certified and non-certified organic farms."

Certified organic farms, she noted, have been inspected by a third party to ensure they follow acceptable organic agricultural practices that build healthy soil without the use of persistent and toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

The study also does not include organic fruits and vegetables sold to distributors, nor does it look at the vast majority of organic farmers growing other products.

According to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada report "Certified Organic — The Status of the Canadian Organic Market in 2003," there were 3,317 certified organic producers in Canada. This number includes organic livestock, dairy, grain and maple syrup producers as well as fruit and vegetable producers. More than one million acres are currently under organic management in Canada, and another 13,400 acres are in transition towards certification.

Consumer demand is creating a market opportunity for organic growers in Canada. As well as organic farmers, Canada has 455 certified organic processors and handlers.

To learn more about organic agriculture and products, visit www.ota.com. The Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Greenfield, Mass., also has a Canadian office: 323 Chapel St., Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7Z2. Phone: (613) 787-2003; fax: (613) 236-0743.

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