Agri-clash in Czechia over organic farming after war in Ukraine

Large Czech agribusinesses oppose the EU’s plan to extend organic farming to 25% of the land, warning against potential food price hikes amid an already challenging situation due to the war in Ukraine. [Shutterstock/HQuality]

Large Czech agribusinesses oppose the EU’s plan to extend organic farming to 25% of the land, warning against potential food price hikes amid an already challenging situation due to the war in Ukraine.

The EU harbours ambitious plans, as a part of its flagship Farm to Fork strategy, to ensure that at least 25% of all farmland is organic by 2030. Reactions have been mixed, with many farmers and some MEPs saying that the mandate will have a detrimental effect on the sector.

While currently, Czechia has over 15% of its farmland organically farmed, Czech farmers are not happy.

“We disagree with setting a mandatory percentage of organic farmland in the Member States,” Jan Doležal, the president of the Czech Republic’s Agrarian Chamber, told EURACTIV.cz.

According to the chamber, the EU should instead create positive incentives for farmers and secure sales, as it is the only way to produce organic food at consumer prices.

Doležal also recalled a recent study by Wageningen University, according to which the planned expansion of organic farming in the EU could lead to a reduction in agricultural production. The study also warns of a possible price increase of up to 25% for livestock production.

Currently, organic land accounts for around 9% of the EU’s agricultural area. The European Commission has not yet responded to EURACTIV’s request for comment.

Czech MEP Veronika Vrecionová (ECR) is also concerned about the EU’s organic farming plans. “The target of 25% of land under organic farming is high and will be difficult to reach the EU level,” she told EURACTIV.cz.

According to Vrecionová, who was a shadow rapporteur for the recently approved European Parliament’s report on the EU action plan on organic agriculture, higher demand for organic products is needed to meet the goal.

Small Czech farmers do not agree as they eye the EU’s plans as an opportunity.

“Achieving 25% of the area under organic farming following the EU action plan is absolutely realistic,” said Jan Štefl, vice-chairman of The Association of Private Farming of the Czech Republic, pointing out that Austria, for example, already cultivates 23% of its land under organic farming. The Czech Republic, with 15%, is above the EU average but could do better, he said.

“For example, organic areas are growing significantly in the Nordic countries, and Germany has high ambitions in this direction and will certainly meet this target,” Štefl added.

According to Štefl, the war in Ukraine and its consequences will not jeopardise ecological ambitions. Rising prices for pesticides and fertilisers, mainly produced from Russian natural gas, may push farmers to look for other alternatives.

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