Organic marketplace at risk: U.S. production increases needed to combat import fraud

ST. LOUIS, MO/June 13, 2017 (STL.News) – When 36 million pounds of conventional soybeans leave a port in Turkey and arrive in the U.S. labeled organic, according to a Washington Post story, it calls into question the transparency of organic product imports.

“While these increased imports may benefit the marketplace today, U.S. food processors who have become reliant on imported products that could be produced domestically may inadvertently be putting not only their own company’s future at risk, but potentially the entire U.S. organic product marketplace,” said Peter Golbitz, CEO and president of Agromeris, in his recently published Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) article, Organic Production Shortfall in U.S. Encourages Imports, Creates Risk.

Golbitz, whose consulting firm advises companies and organizations looking to build strategic and sustainable supply chains in specialty ingredient, food and agricultural markets, will present on that same topic at the third annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum, November 6-7 in St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch.

That shipment, and two others like it over the past year, reflect the growing trend, according to statistics tracked by the U.S. Commerce Department and reported through the USDA FAS GATS database, that imports of organic products have grown at over 35 percent per year since 2012, from $496.3 million to $1.67 billion in 2016. This rise in imports has helped drop prices by more than 25 percent.

Golbitz argues that the short-term benefit of lower imported grain prices comes at a great cost to the industry later if widespread fraud is reported and imports are interrupted. “This could result in a significant shortfall of supply to a growing market that has no domestic backup,” he said. “And perhaps more importantly, buyers of imported grain are missing an opportunity to positively impact U.S. organic production and further build out a sustainable domestic supply chain on which they can depend for future growth.”

While the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated that nearly 142,000 acres in the U.S. in 2015 were in transition to organic cropland, land used for organic production had only grown by about 1 percent annually since 2008.

“A concerted effort needs to be made by buyers of imported organic products to develop programs to identify and support farmers who are motivated to transition to organic production,” said Golbitz. “The end result would not only be a more reliable supply of organic grain and other row crops, but also one that ushers in the beginning of a much larger transformation of chemical-based agricultural practices to those that are environmentally sustainable, profitable and match the values of American family farmers.”

Read Golbitz’s article in its entirety here, and learn more on how organic imports benefit and create challenges for the organic market during his presentation at the Organic & Non-GMO Forum, which is hosted by HighQuest Group. Learn more at www.ongforum.com.

About HighQuest Group

HighQuest Group, headquartered in Danvers, Mass., is a strategic advisory, conference, and media firm serving corporations, financial investors, and governments across the global food and agribusiness value chains. www.highquestgroup.com