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Export Study - Chapter 7: Information Gaps - Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association
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Export Study - Chapter 7: Information Gaps

 

The main information gaps determined are the following:

  • Consumer behavior towards US organic products
  • Information regarding products and infrastructure of the Asian markets
  • Comprehensive information on exported products from the US on a commodity or product for sale basis.

The reason for the lack of information on consumer behavior regarding US organic products is obvious as the interest in data regarding this matter is primarily a US concern, and as no US organization has commissioned a study with the object to explore this issue, it is no surprise that no information is available. A relatively inexpensive way to remedy this situation could be to approach organizations in the respective countries (for example, the CMA in Germany or INRA in France), which conduct studies on consumer behavior toward organic products on a regular basis and integrate questions geared to answering specific US questions.


The main reason for the lack of information on Asian markets is the relative immaturity of those markets themselves. This is even true for Japan, albeit Japan can be considered the most developed market with newly enacted legal regulations on organic agriculture. At the same time, it appears that some of the information relating to Japan is only available in Japanese, thereby posing a specific access problem. We expect that with the growing maturation of the Asian markets more information will become available.


As mentioned earlier, there is no mandatory reporting system for exported organic products from the United States. Also, no foreign country has mandatory reporting system to quantify organic imports. Therefore, all efforts in this regard essentially hinge on the cooperation of the industry itself. Although we experienced reluctance from some industry members to disclose any information on their exported products, we discussed the issue with a large number of industry members in the course of conducting this study. Without doubt, there is substantial interest for getting access to reliable export information. We assume that the general situation, the absence of a mandatory reporting system for the organic industry and no differentiation in official trade statistics between organic and conventional products, will last for the years to come. Despite efforts on the part of some countries and a current FAO attempt to resolve this situation change may be slow in coming on a worldwide scale.


With the know-how gained through this study we do believe that it is possible to generate much more complete numbers than presently available, provided that the time frame and the preparation are appropriate to the task. However, the amount of time needed to gather this information in a satisfactory manner is much greater than provided in the time frame for this study. One of the reasons is that many companies need to make a decision to disclose this information on a higher management level, which can take time. It is also necessary to get access to the proper company source for organic exports, and in addition often the information is not readily available and requires time and manpower to compile.


It is also worth noting that most of the information concerning retail sales and market shares in Europe are trade estimates, with the notable exception of retail sales of specialized organic food shops (Bioläden and Naturkostläden) in Germany. In certain instances these trade estimates differ substantially, with the most striking examples the following ones: Comber [7] estimates the share of imports of the total organic market in Germany as 70%, while this portion in Kortbech et al. [22] is estimated at 38%. Another striking example are estimates regarding the total retail volume in the Netherlands. Kortbech et al. [22] report a retail sales volume of $350 million in 1998, while the Dutch market research firm Aurelia! Advies assumes the same volume as $175 million [9]. Therefore, we caution the reader to keep in mind that most of the numbers cited may vary somewhat from actual numbers, and need to be taken with a grain of salt.

 
 
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