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Germany: New study on organic imports

Germany is not only the largest market for organic products in Europe but also one of its largest organic producers. In spite of this fact, Germany imported in 2012, 3 to 94 % of organic products, which could also have been produced in the country.

Organic cereal imports to Germany 2012. Source: FiBL-AMI Survey based on national data sources.


This is the result of the presented project, in which a survey of importers, single company data transmitted to the statistical office of Germany (if the consent was given), household panel data, store checks, production and area data, as well as official data on organic exports and imports (where available) were combined. The study was conducted by the Agricultural Information Company AMI (www.ami-informiert.de) in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (www.FIBL.org). It was funded under the German Federal Scheme for Organic and Other Forms of Sustainable Agriculture (BOELN).

The data collected using the same methodology as a survey carried out alreaqdy in 2011,  makes it possible to compare the organic imports in the last 3 years:

  • Imports have risen for a number of products such as the main agricultural crops and also dairy products.
  • Imports fluctuate for fruit, vegetables and potatoes depending on harvests in Germany and the supplying countries.
  • For eggs, pork, apples and carrots imports have decreased because production in Germany grew. Import shares grew especially for products, which are used as feed for livestock.
  • For all crops the dependence on weather conditions and yields in Germany and the supplying countries could be observed.

Which commodities are imported?

  • Imports of grain rose from 114'000 t to 154'000 metric tons, which was 19 % of the volume of grain on the German market. Soft wheat was by far the most important species with 81'000 metric tons of imports. Corn and spelt followed. Romania, Italy, Ukraine and Hungary were the most important supplying countries. Italy´s importance has fallen because of food scandals in the winter of 2011/12 and a lack of confidence afterwards. Romania and Ukraine have taken over the leading position as suppliers for grain and oilseeds.
  • The higher organic pig and poultry production in Germany resulted also in a higher demand for protein crops, therefore imports of horse peas increased to 14'000 metric tons. Soy bean and cake imports also increased to 36'000 metric tons. The import share amounted to 22 % respectively 94 % of the market volume in Germany. These imports will probably increase further, when pigs and poultry have to be fed with a 100 % organic ration starting 2015.. Market incentives to increase the production of organic pulses are missing in Germany. Instead there are several initiatives to increase soy bean cultivation in Germany.
  • Because of a sharp increase of domestic production of eggs the domestic market share rose to 86 %. This share may even grow further within the next years. Also for pigs expansion of production has led to a higher domestic market share of 82 %. The Netherlands are the most important supplying country for both eggs and pork. Beef is coming nearly 100 % from Germany.
  • The import share of potatoes increased from 28 up to 35 %. Retailers were not always satisfied with the qualities of German potatoes and sometimes decided to list imported Egyptian or Israeli potatoes earlier.
  • Regarding vegetables, carrots are by far the most important product, if we look at the quantities bought. Organic carrots are grown on 17 % of the German total carrot area. Germany imports 42 % of its organic carrots. In order to increase German production, additional producers would be needed. The very high import rates of fruit vegetables like tomatoes (90 %) and sweet peppers (95 %) are due to the all-year-round demand for products that can be grown in German only seasonally. Regarding vegetables from protected cropping, the demand for regional produce is high, so a further expansion is very likely.
  • Bananas and apples are organic fruit species with the highest quantities on the German market. Organic bananas have, naturally, an import rate of 100 %. The import share of organic apples was also high (38 %) but it was much lower than in 2009/2010, when 50 % was imported. Organic apple cultivation has increased in the last years, as a result the harvest 2011 was the biggest ever recorded.
  • For milk and dairy products import shares 2012/13 have slightly increased since 2009/10. Thus 33 % of fresh milk came from abroad, mainly from Austria and Denmark. Butter imports rose to 39 % mainly due to the fact that German dairies also process quite a volume of imported raw milk mainly from Denmark. Cheese imports have been estimated for the first time. They amount to for 39 % of the market volume. Other dairy products such as yoghurt and cream products come almost exclusively from Germany. It is possible to expand German production, but there always will be competition with the two main suppliers Denmark and Austria, both of which are producing surpluses of organic dairy products.

Who are the big suppliers ?

For Germany the biggest suppliers of organic cereals are Romania, Italy, Ukraine and Hungary. Regarding protein crops (fodder peas, field beans, lupines), Lithuania plays by far the most important role, and more than half of the imports are coming from there. For oilseeds including soy beans, Romania and Ukraine are the most important suppliers. However, several countries outside Europe (China and also India) play an increasingly important role for soy bean imports. Potatoes are mainly imported from Egypt, Israel, and Austria. The Netherlands are an important supplier of carrots, onions, pork and eggs. Fruit vegetables are mainly coming from Spain and Italy. Israel supplies larger quantities of potatoes, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Italy supplies one third of the organic apples sold in Germany. The orgnic bananas are mainly from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Costa Rica.


In many of the above-mentioned countries areas are under conversion, thus further products can be expected for the international market from there. Already now Germany is relying on these imports, in particular for products that can be produced here only with difficulties or that can only be produced seasonally. For many livestock products like eggs and pork, expansion of production has already taken place, but this led to higher imports of feedstuffs.

More information


  • Diana Schaack, Agricultural Market Information Company, Bonn, Germany

Download study


  • Schaack, Diana; Rampold, Christine; Pusch, Elisabeth and Willer, Helga (2014) Weiterentwicklung der Erhebungs- und Analysemethoden zur Entwicklung des ausländischen Angebots bei Bioprodukten am Beispiel 2011/12. [Advancement of analysis and data collection methods about organic imported products to Germany using the example of 2011/12.] Agrarmarkt Informations-GmbH, D-Bonn und Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (FiBL), CH-Frick.


Diana Schaack
Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH (Agricultural Market Information Company)
Dreizehnmorgenweg 10
53175 Bonn
Tel. +49 228 33805 270
Fax +49 228 33805 591

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