April 16, 2015


Shunning GMOs makes Romania top organic corn exporter to US



Romania is the US' top organic corn exporter in 2014, with a 33% share in the American market and at a value of US$35.7 million, according to data by the Organic Trade Association.


This is due to a demand for organic products by US customers who have shunned products of genetically-modified (GM) types, together with the lack of organic suppliers in the country, Bloomberg reported.


The trend is reflective of the recent rise of organic imports into the country, including those of soybeans from India which saw a value of US$73.8 million last year, more than double the amount from 2013.


According to Laura Batcha, the CEO of Organic Trade Association, the developments reveal a potential market for US growers who decide to go 100% organic. This could alleviate shortages which are presently pushing suppliers to obtain from foreign sources.


Corn and soybean shipments, that are declared organic under USDA guidelines, are used as feed for chickens and cows.


As GMOs continue to dominate about 90% of corn and soybean cultivations in the States, Romania and Ukraine contrasted by being generally free of the organisms. This means that their farmers could more easily receive organic sales certification in the US, said Miles McEvoy, the deputy administrator of the USDA's National Organic Program.


On the other hand, the transition to full-organic farming in the US is not a smooth-sailing affair. The concern of profit losses arises as organic farms are required to undergo a three-year period of avoiding the use of non-organic seeds and chemicals.


In addition, record farm profits in recent times may prove too attractive for farmers to consider change, McEvoy said.


Paul Bertels, the National Corn Growers Association's vice-president for production and utilisation, also noted that, despite the higher selling price of organic corn over regular ones, at about US$12.50/bushel, the possibility of lower yields, as well as the obligatory three-year transition, makes organic cultivation a less appealing option.


Nevertheless, the potential for organic farming to gain ground in the US still stands. Change can be prompted by a drop of commodity prices and a need for increased profit margins, said Lynn Clarkson, the founder of Clarkson Grain Co.


In 2014, Romania's spearhead of organic corn exportations to the US was followed by Turkey (19%), the Netherlands (18%), Canada (18%), Argentina (10%) and India (2%).


India is the top supplier of soybean, the second largest US organic import which saw US$184 million worth of shipments last year, according to Bloomberg.


Overall, US organic exports for the same year recorded US$553 million, close to quadruple the amount in 2011. Imports of such were higher, at US$1.28 billion.


Also on the rise is the sales of non-GMO and synthetic chemical-free foods which saw an 11% increase over 2013, at a value of US$35.9 billion.

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