Organic agriculture is growing in the Languedoc Roussillon

organic vegetables

As we are all aware, the growing trend for organic foods and beverages is staking its claim in our shops and supermarkets. Fuelled by a fear of what 'hidden' things we are eating, such as chemicals and pesticides, and concerns about the health of our planet, it seems an increasing number of consumers are turning to products with their reassuring green labels. Studies estimate that the market for organic products is growing by 10-15% a year. There is widespread public belief that organic food is safer, more nutritious, and tastes better than conventional food.

France is the second largest market for organic food and beverage products in Europe with Languedoc-Roussillon being the third largest producer of organic fruit and vegetables and the biggest producer of organic nuts. It is also a significant producer of cereals and rice as well as many iconic Mediterranean foods such as sheep and goat's milk, honey and olives. The region has hundreds of producers currently in the obligatory three year period for conversion, therefore many more producers will become active in the foreseeable future. Already there are a wide variety of regional organic products produced and processed locally for consumers. In terms of numbers of registered producers, the Gard comes 2nd and the Hérault is 4th. The Aude is the department with the greatest amount of cultivated land and the Pyrénées Orientales is 2nd when it comes to the amount of land used for organic farming.

organic vegetables

To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in. All organic products, or 'Bio' in France, must have the European label and sometimes they will also have the 'AB' (agriculture bioligique) which indicate that the products are 100% organic or contain at least 95% if the remainder is not available in an organic form and is expressly authorized.

certified

The process is highly regulated from field to plate, with checks and controls being carried out regularly, at all stages of production by an approved independent government body.

Of course, the difference between producing conventional products and organic products has a cost implication and that is the reason organic food tends to be more expensive. Organic farming methods need 20-30% more labour, crop yields are lower and animals have slower growth. Distribution networks do not currently work on economies of scale and the cost of control and certification is passed down the entire chain.

orgainic wine

Organic wine comes under the same principals and regulations, and each year more and more producers in Languedoc Roussillon are proudly labelling their wines as such. Of the three regions that account for more than 2/3 of organic vines, Languedoc Roussillon is by far the largest, with nearly 20,000 hectares, as can been seen on the following diagram. It was in fact the Languedoc that had the very first organic vineyard in France.

map

Until recently the regulations were only concerned with cultivation techniques applied in growing grapes, but from August 2012 it was extended to vinification or the wine making process and they can now label the wine as organic (vin biologique). Wine producers can only start calling their wines 'Bio' after a period of three years during which time they are highly regulated. There is a possibility that after two years they can mention on their bottles that the wine was made with grapes that are converting to organic (vin issu de raisins en conversion vers l'agriculture biologique).

Many swear that the wine tastes better without sulfites and indeed organic wines regularly win first prize in national and international competitions.

So every time you buy organic food from your local supermarket, or choose a wine made from organic grapes, you can be certain they were produced according to strict rules aimed at respecting the environment and animals.