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Country report - Latvia 2008

by Livija Zarina

Introduction

Organic farming in Latvia developed considerably since its beginnings in 1989. Growth has been triggered by two activities:

  1. The implementation of an inspection system according to EU regulation 2092/91 in 2001;
  2. The implementation of an action plan in the country in 2003 that stimulated farmers’ interest in converting to the organic system.

The development of organic farming in the country was promoted substantially by rural development measures of the Latvian government and the European Union after the accession to the EU. The number of organic farms and the organic area increased rapidly in 2005 and 2006, and between 2003 and 2004 it even almost doubled. 

As of December 31, 2007, the share of organically farmed land was approximately 6 percent of the total agricultural area. Organic farming comprises all sub-sectors of agriculture – cultivation of grain, vegetable gardening, dairy farming and apiculture. There was especially rapid growth in the scope of beef and sheep farming.

Current statistics: Farms

Development of organic farms in Latvia 1998-2007. Source: Ministry of Agriculture Republic of Latvia and Eurostat. Graph: FiBL, Frick

At the end of 2007, the number of farms engaged in organic farming in Latvia had grown by 0.4% compared with the end of 2006 (4’120 farms in total). There were more than 2800 fully converted organic farms; about 1200 farms were in conversion and 63 had started to convert to organic farming.

Current statistics: Organic land

Development of the organic land in Latvia 1998-2007. Source: Ministry of Agriculture Republic of Latvia and Eurostat. Graph: FiBL, Frick

The total certified agricultural area increased only slowly in 2007 compared to the year 2006, reaching 6 percent of the total agricultural land. The organically cultivated area was 151’505 hectares. 100’000 hectares were fully converted, 46’000 hectares were in conversion and on 5’800 hectares the transition period had just started.

Land use and animal husbandry

Land use in organic farming in Latvia 2007. Source: Ministry of Agriculture Republic of Latvia and Eurostat. Graph: FiBL, Frick

The main production areas are crop production, including cereals and vegetables, and dairy farming. Cereal farms specialize in rye and wheat for bread baking, while oats and barley are produced for fodder, thus securing the domestic demand for organic feedstuffs.

In total, 5’159 tons of organic cereals were produced in 2007. Consumer demand is highest for vegetables and fruit. The main crops are potatoes, onions, carrots and beet and, in terms of early vegetables from greenhouses, cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers. In the past years there has also been a strong increase in the demand for medicinal and aromatic plants.

The main types of livestock are dairy cows, beef, pigs and poultry. Different types of honey, pollen and beeswax products are also popular.

Processing

There were 16 companies and farms engaged in primary processing and in the processing of organic products:

  • 1 bakery
  • 3 slaughter houses
  • 4 milk processing companies
  • 3 tea manufacturers
  • 4 fruit, berries, vegetables and hemp processing company
  • 1 honey processing company
  • 3 grain storage facilities
  • 2 milk collection companies

One packaging and sales cooperative was also involved in the marketing of organic products.

Organic farming organisation

Logo of the organic producers' organisation ALOAO
Logo of the organic producers' organisation ALOA

The organic sector is represented by the Association of Latvian Organic Agriculture Organisations ALOA, founded on April 7, 1995.

It is a professional organisation for organic producers, and it is also open to other supporters of the organic movement.

Information is available at their homepage www.ekoprodukti.lv

Training & advice

Logo of the Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre

A training program for raising professional skills in organic agriculture has been established, and it is licensed with the Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre. The aim of the program is to train the participants on organic agriculture, on legislation and the state support policies in organic agriculture and to give basic knowledge on the following themes:

  • Living soil and rational use of organic fertiliser,
  • Crop rotation
  • Pest and disease control
  • Animal husbandry
  • Horticulture
  • Optimum soil tillage systems, farm mechanization and farmyard manure removal technologies
  • Ecological measures
  • Economics 

During these courses, farmers have the opportunity to meet the teaching staff of the Latvia University of Agriculture, extension workers from the Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre and of the Association of Latvian Organic Agriculture Organisations.

The courses have a duration of 180 hours; they consist of:

  • theory 60 hours
  • practical work 22 hours
  • self-dependent work 38 hours
  • practical training in family farms 60 hours.

After the completion of the theoretical and practical courses, the participants are working on practical, concrete projects on organic farming or transition to organic farming. At the end of the course the successful participants receive a state approved certificate.

The Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre has several experts that provide advice on organic farming. A list of these experts is available at the internet site of the Latvian Organic Farmers Association.

In 2007, the course on organic farming (180 hours in total) was completed by 748 farmers.

Links

Training at the Latvia University of Agriculture

Latvia University of Agriculture
Latvia University of Agriculture

The Faculty of Agriculture of the Latvia University of Agriculture, parallel to its basic study program, offers the course 'Organic agriculture'. With the completion of the course, a certificate about mastering theoretical and practical study course in organic agriculture is awarded.

Students in the third year have opportunity to extend their knowledge in the principles of organic agriculture, biological pest management, certification and legislation of organic agriculture in the world and in Latvia.

In the fourth study year students continue studying specifics of crop production and horticulture, weed control techniques, production of seeds. Students are enabled to build knowledge in fundamentals of bee-keeping, peculiarities in rearing and feeding cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and fish, in optimization of feed ration according to the environment demands.

An educational excursion and  individual practical training (a at least two weeks) is included in the study program. The completion of theoretical and practical courses leads to the final examination.

Research

History of organic farming research

   Research activities in organic farming in Latvia started in the beginning of the current century. Some research has already been carried out since the 1990s already when some scientists started to acquaint themselves with scientific literature, took part in scientific conferences, workshops and other international activities connected to organic farming.

Key institutions

   There are several research institutions that have activities within organic farming and food production:

At each institution research is carried out by different research groups. There are good possibilities for utilising the best expertise and the best research facilities. At the Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute, the Stende Cereal Breeding Institute, the Research Centre Skriveri and the research farm Vecauce scientists have access to converted organic experimental fields.

Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute PBI

Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute PBI (Dr.agr. Livija Zarina) under the initiative of Skriveri Research Centre  (Dr.agr. M. Vaivare) is a pioneer at research in organic farming. First experiments were with some biodynamic preparations (Horn manure, Horn silica) on potato started. As the next step was- transformation of experience from long-term experimental field (established in 1958) where crop management without pesticide using are provided to elaborate field crop management system suitable for organic farming.

Today mainstream activities of the organic farming group at Priekuli PBI are:

  • to carry out research on the suitability of plant varieties under organic farming conditions. Tests have been performed on rye, wheat, triticale, barley, oat and potato varieties;
  • to determine the efficiency of plant protection activities, as well as, to do research on plant protection with different methods;
  • to evaluate the triticale, barley and potato breeding material under organic farming conditions; to determine the most significant features to estimate selection criteria for creation of varieties suitable for organic farming;
  • to carry out the record keeping and analysis of weed growth dynamics; estimating the means to decrease the amount of weeds in organic farming fields;
  • to conduct research on preserving the soil fertility levels in crop rotation fields;
  • to propagate the seed material of rye, barley, oat, clover and potato varieties.

Research topics

   Research on organic farming in Latvia focuses on 3 topics:

  • crop management (optimization of nutrients, weed, diseases and pest management ),
  • variety testing for organic farming (suitability of varieties for organic farming),
  • organic livestock production.

Currently the main activities concentrated on variety testing and organic crop management methods. Trials of crop variety suitability under organic growing conditions have been carreid out since 2001 in some research institutes.

Official VCU (Value for Cultivation and Use) testing of field crops for organic farming started in 2004. Breeders included in trials already registered varieties which could be appropriate for organic farming. Varieties of different crops are tested for yield, maturity, lodging and disease resistance, and quality system. Testing was subsidized by the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture. Since 2008 there have been no special subsidies for organic VCU.

The market

The production structure of biological agriculture products roughly correspond to that of conventional agriculture. The specialization level of organic farms is relatively low.

The majority of farms in Latvia cultivates crops produces organic dairy products. Many farms have chosen to take up the production of beef, although the market for beef is relatively small.

Currently almost a half of the organic products do not go to the market, but are grown for self-sufficiency.

Of the remainder, about one third of the marketed products is processed, one third is sold without the indication of its organic origin, and one third is distributed via specialized shops or other specialized channels (such as farmers’ markets, mobile stores during certain periods of time).

State support for organic farming

In order to promote the marketing of organic products, national subsidies were granted in 2007 to support processing, the development of seed production and establishment of a database of vegetative propagation stock.

Support for processing was available for farms that developed in implemented such projects.

In 2007, 30 farmers received support from the national subsidy programme amounting to over 138’600 lats (ca. 200'000 Euros). Support amounting to 9774 lats (ca. 14'000 Euros) was also  granted for the development of organic seed production. The establishment of a database of vegetative propagation stock received 14'986 lats (ca. 21'000 Euros).

Action plan for organic farming

To promote organic farming, the action plan for organic farming was prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture for the period 2003 to 2006. The main targets of this programme were:

  • To increase the area of organic farmland to 3% (= 56’000 hectares) by 2006
  • To stimulate the diversity of organic farming products within eight  product groups (cereals, milk, meat, eggs, vegetables, food supplements, honey) and to raise the total sales volume to 2 percent of total agricultural production sold on the domestic market;
  • To ensure that in 2006, 10 percent of the consumers regularly purchase organic farming products;
  • To improve the certification system and to have it accredited;
  • To create a system of education, research and advice in organic farming.

Most of these aims have been achieved.

The Latvian Rural Development Strategy Plan 2007–2013, developed and approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, gives reason for an optimistic future outlook. This document serves as a basis for further development of the Latvian agriculture, agricultural production and rural areas in general.

Link

Legislation

In Latvia Council Regulation 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products applies.

Furthermore the following provisions have been formulated by the Latvian cabinet:

  • Provisions on labelling food products (No. 46).
  • Procedures for the trade with organic products and certification (No. 514).
  • 'Procedure for monitoring and control of organic farming'
  • 'Procedure for the trade with animals, wild plants and products thereof, not governed by directly applicable European Union legislation concerning organic farming'

References

Author

Contact

Dr. Livija Zarina
Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute
Crops Management Department
1A Zinatnes Street
4126 Priekuli, Priekuli municipality
Latvia

Tel. +371 64130162
Fax +371 64107217
E-mail
lzar@no-spam.inbox.lv
www.priekuliselekcija.gov.lv