C2.3: Production volumes and values

C2.3.1 Introduction

Data on organic production volumes and values are less frequently collected than those on organic areas and livestock numbers (Gerrard et al., 2012, Willer & Schaack 2014). Reporting on production volume was already made mandatory by Regulation (EC) No 889/2008, implementing the organic Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, but not all Member States have yet complied with the Regulation.

C2.3.2 Approaches

Crop and livestock production volumes and values are collected using a number of different approaches including:

  • collection of production volumes (yields, products sold) as part of the certification process
  • estimates of production volume using standard yields and area data
  • surveys of market actors/producers.

C2.3.2.1 Collection of production volume data as part of the control process

Physical volumes of farm output (yields, litres produced, weights of animals) can be collected as part of the control process. This has the advantage that the figures are based on actual farmer values, but not all farmers accurately record their yields and not all control bodies collect and supply such data.  Post-harvest losses will need to be estimated if data collection is based on sales.

C2.3.2.2 Estimates of production volume using standard yields and area data

Production volumes can be estimated by taking production areas (which are recorded for Eurostat and the national bodies) and multiplying them by standard organic yields.

  • Production volume in metric tons = Standard yield in metric tons per hectare x area in hectares

The results can be compared with production volumes reported to the control bodies as a cross-check.

Deriving the standard values for organic yield should be based on a combination of the following sources, depending on availability: 

  • results from scientific studies, projects, (regional) experts, expert panels (e.g. advisers or farmers associations),
  • FADN data  especially if sample sizes are sufficiently large (see Section D for further guidance) to give good coverage of organic farms.

Standard organic yields can also be derived from conventional yields for the different crops and years using a factor for relative yields in organic farming. Such factors should be based on robust scientific evidence at a national/regional level. This can be difficult on a national basis, as yields can vary considerably depending on soils, varieties used, weather conditions, and disease prevalence as well as intensity of conventional production, so a regional approach is often required. 

There are also specific products for which estimating production volumes is particularly difficult so carrying out expert or producer surveys maybe the only option to obtain reliable estimates. The French case study of the OrganicDataNetwork project (Gerrard et al., 2014) highlighted the difficulties in estimating production volumes for vegetables and fruits. In some databases, many types of vegetables (and similarly for fruit and berries) are aggregated as "field-scale vegetables", "greenhouse vegetables" or "other vegetables". For fruit, the tree density and characterisation of the orchards are not always recorded or documented in the databases. Yields of permanent crops (fruit and berries) can vary depending on the intensity and management of the orchards, varieties and age of the trees, as well as well as weather condition and pests and disease pressure. The European organic fruit forum (Europäisches Bioobstforum EBF) has worked on estimating yields of apple and pear production for many years: mainly for internal users (Zander, 2011).

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C2.3.2.3 Survey market actors

Some production volume and yield data can be collected by carrying out surveys of producers and other actors of the supply chain. Such surveys can be useful to supplement production data, target specific data gaps and/or provide more up-to-date insights, but survey fatigue of organic producers may occur. Telephoning producers may help to increase the response rates of emailed or posted surveys. It would be costly and time consuming to carry out such surveys yearly for all products, so expert estimates may be required in some cases.

C2.3.3 Concluding remarks

When collecting organic production volume data on farms, it has to be considered that not all of a farm’s production is necessarily sold on the organic market or any market. Volumes retained on the farm for feed and seed and post-harvest losses (e.g. grade-outs and storage loss) will not be covered, and product sold on the conventional market may not be covered.

If production data are collected from processors and other actors of the supply chain that are not producers, this will only cover volumes sold in the organic market (for some further information see the French case study in Gerrard at al., 2014). 

  • Example
    In Germany, normally about 25 to 30 percent of the organic potato harvest is graded out post-harvest and is not sold for human consumption.

In the case of meat, the differences between live weight, carcass weight and marketable meat (excluding e.g. bones) have to be taken into account.
The following sector specific observations were recorded in the OrganicDataNetwork project (Gerrard et al.2014):

  • Grain traders can be important data providers for arable crop production volumes.
  • Slaughterhouses may be able to provide data on production volumes for livestock, but specific conversion rates from carcass weight to weight of meat for market are required. Also, a data gap may occur in countries where a large proportion of organically produced livestock is slaughtered as conventional (e.g. Czech Republic, UK for some products) due to animals that have left the organic chain. Bovine animals, sheep and goats often leave the organic chain when they are young and are sold to conventional farms for fattening.
  • Milk volumes are relatively easy to assess: The authorities collect the data directly from the dairies – and if not, they can be collected there by any data collector.
  • Egg production can be estimated by the number of laying hens and an average number of eggs per hen and year.

In order to get a figure on the production value, production volumes can be multiplied with farm level prices (see below). It is common, also in conventional agriculture, to use sales revenues as an indicator of production value. All the products that remain on the farms, such as feed or young animals for fattening and so do not have a sale value, are not included in this value.