Interview with Joyce Moewius from BÖLW
Examine Germany’s role in the European organic industry, learn about some of the challenges the sector currently faces, and discover which opportunities BÖLW plans to explore further in the future.
Hailing from Berlin, Joyce Moewius works as a Press and Public Relations Officer at the prestigious German Association of Organic Farmers, Food Processers and Retailers (Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft - BÖLW). As that nation’s leading umbrella organisation for organic agricultural producers, processors, and traders, BÖLW ensures that the organic food industry’s environmental, economic, and social achievements are adequately represented in German politics and society.
Joyce highlights some of the challenges and opportunities the organic food industry currently faces.
Hello Joyce! Briefly describe the German organic food industry's landscape, role, and impact on the EU's organic sector.
The German organic sector is the biggest market on a European level. In Germany, 10% of the agricultural area is managed organically. Every year, increasing numbers of farmers are deciding to convert because they see a bright future in organic—for the environment, animals, and economic wellbeing of their farms. We also have specialised organic processors and retailers, which are also well-developing parts of the organic sector. In total, more than 42,000 enterprises work in accordance with certified organic standards.
What are the biggest challenges the German organic food industry is facing today?
One big challenge is that the framework for agriculture and food production is still not spearheading the most sustainable solutions. For example, agricultural subsidies are mainly paid per hectare—regardless of how you work on the land. Organic farmers’ production costs are higher [than those of their non-organic counterparts] because all their external costs are internalised. This is a disadvantage for them. If you work with methods that damage the soil or water, production is generally “cheaper” because it is possible to use conventional pesticides—and the costs to repair the damage they leave behind are not paid by the polluters.
How are you working to overcome these at BÖLW?
At BÖLW, we try to create a framework that supports players who produce common goods, such as water, or who actively work to protect the climate. While we do not fund destructive ways of production, we still have a long way to go. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which funds the agriculture sector with billions of Euros every year, recently reformed its policies. In the future, it would be vital for the CAP only to invest common money in common goods.
You work as a Public Relations Manager for BÖLW. What was the most groundbreaking story the media published about your organisation in the past year?
We are not focussed on getting BÖLW coverage in the media because our focus lies on getting our members featured in the press. It is, however, quite groundbreaking that topics related to sustainability, such as climate change, the way we practice agriculture and how or what we eat, have arrived on big media houses’ regular agendas.
How do you see the future of food evolving? What new business opportunities and technologies do you expect to see in the industry?
The coronavirus has clearly demonstrated that the food system is not very resilient during or resistant to crises. We see that the organic system—with less external input and more regional supply chains for the majority of foods—brings about tremendous opportunities and advantages. It isn’t as much about technology as it is about creating a system that makes farms and enterprises more resilient. We will have to analyse how much trading and travelling our food should be doing, what we should produce more of regionally, and how we can become more self-sufficient on a bigger scale.