Some organic produce enthusiasts are cheering the increasingly widespread availability. They say it’s time to major retailers like Safeway, Costco, and even Wal-Mart have begun to add organic products to their shelves. With the market starting to boom, some of the world’s largest food manufacturers are beginning to jump on the bandwagon, as well, such as Kellogg’s, Kraft, and General Foods. Is not it good news for advocates of healthier food? The answer is a qualified maybe. It is a simple matter of time proved the law of supply and demand. The organic market has grown steadily for decades, and when the numbers were there, it was inevitable that large companies would step in to grab market share. Some less intensive organic food advocates have expressed concern to giant retailers to enter the market will eventually weaken the certification standards and hurt small farmers who have been able to capitalize on serving organic niche market in order to survive.The market for organic production is still minuscule, accounting for less than 3 percent of the US retail food sales in 2005, but the numbers are still impressive: $ 14 billion in sales, an increase of 16 percent for organic produce, 24 percent for organic milk, and a whopping 55 percent increase in organic beef sales last year. Certified organic products typically sell at a 20-30 percent premium over similar inorganic ones. Given numbers like these, it is not surprising that the nation’s mega-retailers are starting to get excited with the prospect of further growth. However, there is growing concern that the factory-style farms importing organic area to fill the demand from retail giant, the certification process can be reduced to allow the huge farms to meet the specifications. They fear were some credible when recent report Cornucopia Institute found that two of the largest organic dairies in the nation keep their cows primarily enormous feedlots with little or no chance to graze in the pasture. At the moment, the demand for organic milk exceeds supply, but if the trend continues (and there is no reason to believe it will not), it could cause a genuine problem for small farmers, who have been virtually squeezed out almost every other phase of agriculture, but managed to find a niche market that allow them to stay in business. One of the largest impact on the market will be demand retail giant Wal-Mart for a considerably lower price. It means lower profit margins for suppliers, but it could also mean a further easing of certification standards in order to meet demand and low prices Wal-Mart would expect.
Where will it all lead? It is too early to tell, but if the current trend continues, it seems that the consumer cost of organic produce and meat is going to be more affordable. However, it is yet to be determined how much loosening certification guidelines will take place in order for it to occur. Copyright © 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher