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StatsCan: Just the facts about certified organic farming in Canada in 2021

July 26, 2022  By Statistics Canada

In 2021, certified organic fruit and vegetable farmers grew less produce overall compared with 2020. Adverse weather conditions in the main organic farming provinces negatively affected fruit production (-11.6 per cent), while organic vegetable production increased 4.5 per cent. Certified organic production accounted for 3.3 per cent of all fruit and vegetables nationally in 2021.

Certified organic fruit and vegetable farmers require mandatory certification and must ensure compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards, which is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Certified organic farmers’ main farming practice is limiting the use of synthetic crop inputs, such as pesticides and fertilizers.

Area dedicated to certified organic fruit and vegetable cultivation remained relatively stable at 19,246 hectares (-0.5 per cent) in 2021. The farm-gate value of certified organic fruit and vegetables increased 3.1 per cent to $170.0 million. This growth was due to an increase in the value of vegetables (+13.8 per cent), which more than offset the decline of fruits (-3.6 per cent).


Decrease in cultivated area of organic fruits

In 2021, Canada’s total certified organic fruit cultivated area remained relatively consistent (+0.5 per cent, to 14,281 hectares) with the previous year. However, fruit-bearing area declined 6.8 per cent, to 8,390 hectares.

Farm-gate value of certified organic fruit fell 3.6 per cent to $98.1 million in 2021, which was attributable to a 25.5 per cent decrease in the farm-gate value of certified organic blueberries (to $22.3 million). However, increases were recorded for certified organic strawberries (+55.6 per cent, to $3.3 million) and certified organic grapes (+16.2 per cent, to $8.2 million).

Quebec accounted for the largest share of organic fruit cultivated area (82.8 per cent), followed by British Columbia (9.8 per cent) and Ontario (5.7 per cent).

In Quebec, organic fruit-bearing area decreased 8.7 per cent compared with 2020 because of a reduction in the cultivated area of cranberries (-20.3 per cent) and blueberries (-8.8 per cent). Cultivated area of organic cranberries decreased 20.5 per cent from 2020 to 2021, causing production to decline 19.7 per cent to 23.8 million kilograms (kg). Several cranberry farms that made the leap to organic management returned to conventional management in 2021, pest control being a factor.

Canada imports more organic berries

Total organic berry imports increased 33.8 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year. Organic strawberries accounted for the biggest portion with 10.7 million kg (+42.8 per cent), followed by organic blueberries with 4.8 million kg (+27.5 per cent), and organic raspberries and loganberries with 3.0 million kg (+16.8 per cent). Most imports came from the United States (65.9 per cent) and Mexico (23.0 per cent).

By comparison, Canadian farms sold 357,908 kg (+51.7 per cent) of organic strawberries, 7.1 million kg (-36.3 per cent) of organic blueberries and 38,710 kg (-17.2 per cent) of organic raspberries in 2021.

Canadian farmers are growing more certified organic vegetables

Total certified organic vegetable production (excluding potatoes, greenhouse vegetables and seeds) increased 4.5 per cent to 42.6 million kg in 2021, despite a slight decrease in cultivated area (-3.3 per cent, to 4,965 hectares).

In 2021, Quebec accounted for just over three-quarters of the certified organic vegetable area (75.5 per cent), followed by Ontario (12.3 per cent) and British Columbia (8.9 per cent). In 2021, certified organic vegetable cultivated area represented 4.7 per cent of the entire field vegetable area.

Organic vegetable farm-gate value rose 13.8 per cent to $71.9 million, accounting for 5.1 per cent of the total field vegetable farm-gate value in 2021. Over half of the total certified organic vegetables grown domestically were produced in Quebec ($43.5 million) in 2021, while almost one-third were grown in British Columbia ($14.6 million) and Ontario ($8.0 million).

Imports of organic vegetables from Mexico has increased

In 2021, organic lettuce (12.2 million kg) topped certified organic vegetable imports, followed by organic cauliflower and broccoli (11.6 million kg), and organic baby carrots (11.1 million kg). Of these vegetables, 85.9 per cent were imported from the United States and 10.6 per cent from Mexico.

Over the past year, organic cauliflower and broccoli have experienced the greatest growth in imports (+53.5 per cent). Meanwhile, domestic marketed production of organic cauliflower and broccoli decreased 13.9 per cent to 3.8 million kg in 2021.

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