May 6, 2009

Organic Growth

How about a bit of good news? The Organic Trade Association announced the other day that organic food sales were up almost 16% last year boosting organic food's market share to 3.5% (while organic non-food items like personal care and pet food products grew at a stunning 39%). Note that last year's impressive growth isn't far off the organic industry's recent annual average of 20%. And this during a severe recession. Given that many retailers saw sales fall off a cliff at the end of last year, it makes the results look even better.

Meanwhile, struggling chicken monolith Tyson Foods just reported a quarterly loss of $100 million while commodity monolith Archer-Daniels-Midland -- helped last year by high commodity prices -- saw sales drop 21% last quarter. Unsustainable indeed.

The noteworthy performance of organic food brings to mind something Natasha Chart at recently pointed out: that organic farming remains almost entirely unsubsidized, certainly compared to the billions annually handed out, directly and indirectly, to conventional farmers. The GOP, along with conventional ag-loving Democrats, love to talk about unleashing so-called "market forces" into agriculture in order to drive down prices (although when they say that, they really mean supporting subsidies they like rather than subsidies they don't like). At the same time, they typically dismiss organic food as overpriced and offering no real value to consumers. Meanwhile, the masters of low-priced commodity food, Tyson and ADM (not to mention Smithfield, which was financially struggling well before the Swine Flu epidemic) are watching sales plummet along with their stock prices. I wonder what the GOP thinks the market is telling us now?

Photo by m kasahara used under a CC license

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Blogger yojimbo said...

It really makes you wonder what sort of gains the organic industry could make if it were subsidized in some way.

Corporate Accountability International just launched a new campaign called "Value the Meal" focusing on the role corporations like Monsanto and Macdonalds play in determining our food production system.

For more information, you can visit our blog here:

James Reddick

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