INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY
During the second half of the 1990s, a strong and steady growth in the sales of organic foods has provided these products with a viable and sometimes value added market niche. Changes in dietary habits among many segments of the population of developed countries - resulting from increased health awareness and the increasing demand for a wider variety of products, including convenience food - have contributed to this growth. Due to major food scares, which hit many countries in western Europe in the late 1990s and early years of this century, consumers in general have become more critical when purchasing food. Moreover, they have become more demanding regarding information on production and processing aspects (including tracability of the product). The sales of organic horticultural products have been expanding rapidly in many of the major organic markets (e.g. the United States, countries in the European Community and Japan). However, the market share of organic products in total food sales is still small, with shares ranging between one and three percent.
The economies of many developing countries are dependent on the export of a relatively small number of (mostly agricultural) commodities. Several of these commodities (e.g. bananas and sugar) are likely to face further market liberalization pressure in the near future. As a result, diversification of agricultural production is more than ever of utmost importance. Diversification towards high-value crops can help to reduce the vulnerability of many agricultural producers in those countries, especially for resource poor and small scale farmers.
Despite ongoing conversion towards more sustainable farming methods in developed countries and government support to further boost organic production, consumption of organic foods is expected to continue to outgrow domestic production in developed countries, leaving room for significant organic imports, at least in the short- to...
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