Interview with Dr. Helena Melnikov from Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V.

Discover exciting insights about the evolution of organics, explore how Waren-Verein expects the European Commission's Farm to Fork strategy to propel organics further and more.

About Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V.

Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V. was founded in 1900 to facilitate Hamburg’s colonial produce, dried fruit and drugs trade. In 1962, the association expanded its reach to encompass the nationwide promotion of imports of canned goods, frozen products, dried fruits, edible nuts, spices and honey. Today, Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V. is a renowned partner among policymakers and public authorities that collaborates closely with Europe's food and drinks industry umbrella and trade organisations.

About Dr. Helena Melnikov

Dr. Helena Melnikov was appointed Managing Director of Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V. in 2014. In this role, she represents the association’s interests at a federal government and EU-level. Furthermore, she maintains relations with politicians, drives the acquisition of new members and partners, manages all areas of Waren-Verein’s business including budgets and human resources, gives lectures and participates in panel discussions. She is also Managing Director of the affiliated trade associations Zentralverband Naturdarm e.V., Honig-Verband e.V. and the Fédération Européenne des Emballeurs et Distributeurs de Miel (European Federation of Honey Packers and Distributors). A certified lawyer with a doctorate in commercial criminal law, Dr. Helena Melnikov was previously Head of Legal and Competition as well as Head of Agricultural Policy for the Bundesverband Großhandel, Außenhandel, Dienstleistungen e.V. (Federal Association of Wholesale, Foreign Trade, Services) in Berlin.

Talk us through Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V.'s key initiatives and services in more detail.

Waren-Verein stands up for freedom of trade across the world—for the benefit of its members and all consumers. We advocate for the interests of foreign and wholesale trade of canned products, frozen products, dried fruit, edible nuts, dried vegetables, spices, organic products and related products. At Waren-Verein, we deal with new EU regulations and national legislation on a daily basis to keep our members informed. We help our members with questions around food and customs laws and inform them thoroughly about trade policy developments.

In recent years, questions related to sustainability and quality gained significance. Hence, we established working groups that handle these topics professionally and work to foster better exchanges with experts from these sectors. We also organise workshops and conferences to train our members, keep them updated on the latest requirements and connect them within the food sector.

To equip the association for the future, we also established a young leader program to attract junior talents to Waren-Verein’s work in the food sector.

On your website, you feature organic food as its own product category. How has this sector evolved over the past decade? 

Waren-Verein’s organic food category began to develop 16 years ago. It all started 2004 with one member who said, “I will concentrate on organic food. Who else? “. Today, this category is made up of 65 member companies, and the number is growing. These companies represent the entire organic retail chain—importers, laboratories, warehouses, growers’ associations and inspection bodies. This shows that trade with organic products has become increasingly relevant for companies.

Organic retail sales worldwide amounted to 97 billion Euros in 2018 (based on current fibl data presented at BioFach 2020) (see Figure 1). The largest single market is that of the US (40.6 billion EUR), followed by the EU (37.4 billion EUR) and China. Accordingly, sales of organic products in Europe in 2018 were 8% higher than in 2017. 

The ten countries with the largest markets for organic food are the US, Germany, France, China, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, Spain (see Figure 2). In 2018, Denmark became the world champion in organic market share with 11.5%, by a clear margin, followed by Switzerland with 9.9% and Sweden with 9.6% (see Figure 3). Germany ranked 6th with a 5.3% share of organic sales in the total food market. The Danes and the Swiss spent the most money on organic products per person and year (€ 312 each) and the Swedes came in second (at €226) (see Figure 4). France overtook Germany, which came in 8th with €132 (see Figure 5). 

Worldwide, the area under organic farming is growing. From 2008 to 2018, it grew from 0.7% to 1.5% worldwide (see Figure 6). The ten countries with the highest growth in organic farming area are currently (see Figure 7) Germany ranks 7th. This leads to the fact that over the last twenty years, there has been an increase in organic producers of more than 55% (see Figure 8). There are 2.8 million organic growers worldwide today (see Figure 9). 47% of the producers come from Asia; more than 90% of the organic producers have their cultivated areas in Asia, Africa and Europe (see Figure 9).

How do you expect it to develop moving forward?

The European Commission recently launched its Farm to Fork Strategy. In her speech, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, stated the following:

  • Our vision is to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume food, and to improve our health and environment. 

  • Organic farming is one of the cornerstones of this vision. It is considered as a practice that is environmentally sustainable and offers economic opportunities to Europe’s farmers. 

  • It also responds to growing consumer demand for food production that respects our planet’s boundaries.

  • ‘Organic’ is symbolic of the balance we are trying to achieve with the Farm to Fork strategy. 

  • Under Farm to Fork, we want to see the size of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming increase to at least 25%.

Therefore, at Waren-Verein, we expect the demand for organically produced food to rise and gain importance. We are closely monitoring the fundamental social and cultural mindsets that are pointing to the fact that more and more consumers value where their food comes from and how it is produced and processed.


What new key policies do you expect will have the biggest impact on actors along Europe’s food supply chain in upcoming years, both on a national and an EU-level?

Food safety will play an even more important role in the future. To give you one example: 

The reduction of approved pesticides and the lowering of many MRLs for pesticide residues will have an impact on how importers will be able to source and import goods within the EU. This will also raise the need to further intensify the work around quality between importers and their suppliers as well as between associations of importers in receiving countries and associations of exporters and growers in sourcing countries. This is an important part of the work we are doing at Waren-Verein.

All goals that have been defined in the EU’s new Farm to Fork Strategy will have a large impact on actors along Europe’s food supply chain. Europe will have to ensure that they are not isolating themselves. We need free trade, we need a working WTO, and we need to take issues like sustainability, fair wages, food security and food safety to all countries.  


What concrete innovative digital solutions are transforming trade and logistics for wholesale food producers?

Blockchain is improving transparency in food safety. Web-based trading platforms will force brokers and importers to concentrate on their essential unique selling points like well-performing networks in sourcing countries, top qualities, top service, in time delivery, moderate prices. These are the USP’s of our members and they can’t be replaced by technology by now.







In what ways has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your members and partners? And what role did Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse Ev play in helping solve the challenges at hand?

The Covid-19 pandemic hit our members in very different ways. Those who sell to the retail sector were required to deliver a much larger quantity of products speedily. Those who sell to the catering industry, restaurants, hotels and large-volume consumers had no customers from one day to the next because everything closed. All in all, there was great uncertainty in the market. Waren-Verein guided its members by providing them with relevant information and maintaining the dialogue with the authorities to find solutions for certificates, border controls, audits and all kinds of documents. We worked around the clock to keep our members informed, businesses running and goods moving.

Learn more on | Connect with Dr. Helena Melnikov on Linkedin | Interview powered by LAMA

All figures based on a FiBL-AMI survey 2020 (or from surveys 2001-2020 surveys). More details & data: https://statisti


Figure 1 


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(Source: BÖLW Branchenreport 2020 Kapitel 8, Original-Quelle FiBL-AMI survey 2020 Table 7, page 315)


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Figure 7 


Figure 8 & Figure 9





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