• In the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) region organic agriculture could play a catalyst role in green economy transformation by re-vitalizing the farm and food sector and creating employment that provides better returns on per unit of labour input all along the value chain. It could increase income and food security for rural communities; create business opportunities for investors and increase the contribution of
agriculture to the national economies by, inter alia, reducing import bills for farm inputs, boosting exports of organic products and reducing costs to society that result from the negative externalities of industrial farming.
• Conventional industrial agriculture produces high yields per hectare by using external inputs such as fossil fuel, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that result in higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation and depletion of natural capital. When externalities – such as soil erosion; reduced natural resistance of crops to pests; loss of human health and life (caused by pesticides and other chemicals); loss of biodiversity,
ecosystems and ecosystems services; contamination of water; and costs associated with climate change – are accounted for, the cost inflicted by intensive industrial farming on a country and its population outweigh its benefits.
• In contrast, organic agriculture offers the EECCA region the opportunity to maintain and enhance its natural capital stock by reducing emissions, creating carbon sinks, preserving soil organic matter and increasing biodiversity. The value of public benefits and services from organic production has been estimated at US$40 per hectare per year for carbon sequestration; and a further US$30 per hectare per year for other biodiversity services. In addition, by avoiding negative externalities, including soil erosion and pesticide contamination, organic agriculture saves in the range of US$150-200 per hectare per year compared to conventional production. In total, organic agriculture yields environmental advantages valued at US$220-270 per hectare per year. In addition, land value can increase substantially from better soil management.
• Organic agriculture requires significant investments in capacity and skills development of farmers and the whole value chain as well as institutional strengthening and infrastructure development. These investments provide good economic, social and environmental returns.
• The organic sector merits public sector support in terms of policy reforms and investment as many of the benefits of organic agriculture are passed on to society as a whole rather than staying with just the farmers and private investors.
• A mix of regulations and incentives can drive the growth of organic production. This can be seen in countries such as Moldova, which experienced a three-fold increase in the number of organic farmers between 2006 and 2009, and now 11 per cent of its agricultural export is organic produce.
• This report suggests that attaining an organically managed area in the range of 5 to 10 per cent of the region’s whole agriculture area is desirable and possible within a decade. EECCA governments can gradually stimulate organic production by setting ambitious growth targets, making organic action plans, adapting policies to support organic agriculture and facilitating public and private investments in the sector.
• Economic incentives to reward supply chains for responsible and green behaviour need to be put in place, including linking them with relevant international mechanisms such as international payments for ecosystem services, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and REDD+.
• Finally, governments need to implement “polluter pays” (e.g. for nutrient runoff) and “user pays” (e.g. for water) principles in agriculture. The first priority should be to remove distorting policies, such as subsidies for agrochemicals or policies that hinder long-term land tenure by farmers or farming communities.