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Austria: Traders and producers speak out on the organic market

"The organic selection is still much more limited, comparatively"

Organic seems to truly be the solution for everything – or so the manufacturers' advertising campaigns would have us believe. Not only free from pollutants and healthy, but ecological and carbon-neutral as well: that is what organic food claims to be. However, especially for intensive crops like tomatoes, organic farming is simply too expensive, according to Thomas Merschl, tomato grower and member of the LGV, in an ORF documentary. Instead, the Viennese gardener opts for soilless tomato cultivation on coconut substrate and with a closed water cycle system. "This allows us to precisely estimate the amount of water a plant needs. The surplus water is accordingly collected and reused in the next watering cycle. This enables us to make the cultivation as sustainable as possible. On the sales side, we have the advantage that the big city is literally on our doorstep, which means transport routes are very short."

"The organic share in the wholesale market is still under 10 percent, as organic products are less in demand with restaurateurs and the hotel industry," says Stephan Barasits, managing director of the Vienna wholesale market. Erich Haller, owner and managing director of the local Obsthaus Haller, agrees. "Personally, I will say that organic is always the better choice. Professionally speaking, there are far more alternatives with conventional fruits and vegetables, which is why I can find a qualitatively better product. It must be said fairly that the choice of organic products is more limited."

Between organic and conventional, there are few differences in apple cultivation, says fruit producer and trader Ewald Schwarz. The most significant difference lies in the permitted plant protection products. "The more targeted the approach, the less product you need and the less you have to combat. So the goal is to work as little and as effectively as possible. Generally, the procedure in organic farming is almost similar, only the permitted products are overall weaker, which means more effort is required, and the trees must be treated more frequently."

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