Producing organic food just isn’t paying

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Organic farming has come under fire by one of the world’s leading organic food producing countries. Helena Jonsson, president of the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF), said that Swedish farmers aren’t being rewarded for doing the right thing. “We are proud of how we produce food, but it hasn’t paid off,” she told the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in Sweden recently.

Jonsson said Sweden has the world’s most demanding consumers in terms of environmentally friendly food and animal welfare. This means Swedish farmers have extremely high production costs. “The fact is that we have so many regulations it makes it hard for us to get our food on the market,” she said. “If it’s not profitable to farm sustainably, then why would any farmer do so? It would help if the consumer would be willing to pay the extra cost, but they are not.”

Sweden’s agricultural sector decreases by 2% annually, and Jan Eksvärd, an expert on sustainable development at the LRF, attributes this to the unprofitability of farming. “There is a lot of bureaucracy to enforce the ethics in food production, which means that it is often cheaper to import products which have not been put under the same scrutiny,” he said. “There is a general trend among the Swedes of moving away from buying locally produced food because it is more expensive.”

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Jonsson said that Swedish farmers cannot compete with other nations when it comes to food production. “Organic farming is not profitable on a mass scale,” she said, adding that, by accepting cheaper food from other countries that don’t produce sustainably, Sweden is only exporting its problems. Jonsson said that the consequences of a dwindling agriculture sector are that knowledge, technological advancement and development are all lost. Politicians and retailers need to take a stand and pay farmers their due for the food they produce, she said.