Organic agriculture in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a small but rapidly growing organic sector. The converted or under conversion agricultural area has more than tripled in two years to reach 161,000 ha in 2016 – of which 89,000 ha arable land and 33,000 ha permanent crops.

The number of organic producers has almost doubled in the same period, reaching 7000 holdings. The interest in organic agriculture is mainly driven by the CAP subsidies – RDP measure 11 and priority in financing through the RDP investment measure 4. Another important growth factor is the increasing demand for organic produce in the EU (EEA) countries – the second largest global organic market after the US. There are more and more examples for niche organic productions, entirely focused on external markets.

The Bulgarian organic market still has insignificant volume (2-3% market share). Thus, the country can be seen as potential sourcing destination. Especially in crops where it already has traditions and well-developed markets for conventional produce – for the fresh market and especially for the processing industry.

Fruits and nuts have the largest share in organic area –26,000 converted or under conversion hectares– mainly walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, plums, cherries, berries, etc.

During the last few years Bulgaria has established itself as global leader in aromatic and medicinal crops – not only been a key exporter of rose and lavender oil, but also of oils, herbs and other products from various plants –melissa, chamomile, fennel, rose hip, yarrow, coriander, etc. The vast majority of aromatic and medicinal plants area is already converted or under conversion to organic production– 17,000 ha.

Grains and oilseeds, where Bulgaria is among the top EU exporters of conventional produce, have also substantial share in organic area – 23 thousand ha – mainly wheat (durum/hard wheat) and sunflower.

The number of organic breeding sheep and goats is growing, surpassing 21 thousand. Bulgarian organic milk products and meat have increasing popularity on foreign premium markets. The country has good conditions for pasture livestock breeding – almost 40,000 ha of organic (or under conversion) permanent grassland.

Bulgaria is a leading EU producer and exporter of organic honey – more than 236,000 organic beehives (the largest number in EU) and approximately 2000 tons of organic honey production.

Despite the booming number of organic farms, Bulgaria has relatively low survival rate of organic holdings – approx. one of five producers quit the market every year. This shows a certain lack of know-how and understanding of both technical and economic specificities of organic production.

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