Organic Agriculture Around the World

All around the world, you’ll find farmers who are passionate about restoring their environment through organic and regenerative farming practices. There is a lot of variety in regional approaches to sustainable agriculture, and each of them has something to teach us about Canada’s organic sector. Let’s take a closer look at the state of organic agriculture in different countries around the world, examining how farmers and policy-makers alike have contributed to the growth of the sector. 


In 1986, the civil war that had plagued Uganda for two decades came to an end. Facing rising food insecurity and economic and environmental devastation, Ugandans were driven by a desire to rebuild and rehabilitate everything that had been damaged during the war. The widespread adoption of organic agriculture across the country was one of the outcomes of this endeavour, despite the challenges the post-war landscape presented.

Ugandan farmers were drawn to organic agriculture because of its low input costs as well as its resource-saving and environmentally friendly benefits. Uganda’s agricultural system already had some of the lowest levels of pesticide and herbicide use in the world, helping to ease the transition for farmers.

Today, Uganda is a leader in African organic agriculture, out of the continent’s 815,000 organic producers, 210,000 come from Uganda. 
Uganda’s main organic exports include coffee, cotton, dried bananas, pawpaws, pineapples, passion fruits, chillies, ginger and sesame, as well as dried fruits and vegetables and vanilla.

Agriculture in general is extremely important in Uganda, over 85 percent of the country’s population is directly engaged in the industry, and agriculture makes up 24 percent of the country’s total GDP.  The country’s desire to support organic agriculture was reflected in its most recent organic agriculture policy, published in July 2021. The document outlines the country’s objectives to reach American and European markets and addresses the need to grow research and public awareness.

Uganda is also becoming an educational centre for organic farmers. In 2019, the Rural Organic Agricultural Training College (RUCID) became the country’s first college solely dedicated to the education and research of regenerative and organic agriculture. The school has attracted students from across Africa hoping to establish their own climate-resilient and environmentally friendly farms once they return home.


In 2020, Mexico ranked third in the world for organic food production. The states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Chihuahua and Guerrero were the largest organic food producers in the country, accounting for 82 percent of total organic cropland. Organic agriculture has proven an attractive and lucrative option for those who have limited financial resources or face other systemic societal barriers in the country. 

Mexico is unique from other countries in that its organic sector is driven almost entirely by small-scale operations. A survey conducted in 2015 found that 99.9 percent of organic farmers were classified as small-scale with fewer than three hectares of farmland. Eighty-three percent also identified as members of Mexico’s Indigenous population (including Zoque, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Tojolobal and Maya). 

Women-led farms account for 34.6 percent of organic farms in Mexico. Many women have taken on leadership roles both on farms and as board members of organizations advocating for the interest of the organic sector. 

Much of the sector’s success is due to the public’s enthusiasm for healthier food options. But despite local support, most of Mexico’s organic foods like coffee, avocado, corn, cocoa, alfalfa, sesame, guava, mango, lemon and banana are exported to the United States, its largest trading partner. 

To support organic agriculture’s growth, the Mexican government has developed and implemented federal organic standards. The Mexican Organic Products Law (LPO) was published in 2006, followed by the Regulations for Organic Products in 2013. One of the main challenges facing the sector is that the country’s organic policies are focused on growing exports, and as such even locally grown and sold organic products are subject to the same international organic standards. In Canada, although both international and domestic organic foods must comply with regulations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations and the Safe Food for Canadians Act, products grown and sold within the same province are not subject to formal regulation.


Denmark is considered to be a world leader in government-supported organic agriculture. Denmark’s organic roots reach back to the 1970s, when it became the first country in the world to develop its own organic agriculture law. As a result, the country’s present-day organic sector is bolstered by a robust system of government regulation and support. 

In Denmark, all aspects of the organic food production system are subject to inspections at least once a year to ensure they adhere to EU organic standards. Danish farmers, companies and trade associations have also introduced additional voluntary guidelines that are more stringent than the EU standards.

Currently, Denmark’s organic sector has a bigger share of the country’s retail market than any other country in the world. Denmark is home to some of the most pro-organic consumer base in the world; nearly 12.8 percent of groceries purchased by Danish shoppers are organic. 

The main Danish organic exports are dairy products, pig meat, fruit and vegetables. Denmark’s organic sector has grown 200 percent since 2007, and the Danish government has shared a commitment to double their current production levels again by 2030. 

A key component of this plan is to raise public awareness about the benefits of organic farming, naturally starting in schools. “We want to raise the level of awareness that children and young people are concerned with organic food and through ongoing school reform we are improving the knowledge of organic farming with teaching in science classes and through food classes,” said Danish Minister of Education Christine Antorini.
The University of Denmark has also made some exciting advancements in organic agricultural research, recently unveiling a robotic weeder for organic farmers.


Spain is a prominent figure on the world organics stage, ranked first for organic lands in the EU and tenth among world markets. The region of Andalusia produces the most organic crops in the country. The Spanish domestic organic market was valued at €1.6 mn in 2017

The organic sector is quickly becoming an important aspect of the country’s economy, supporting over 44,000 operators– growing by 5.3 percent in 2017. The market is strengthened by supportive national and regional organic policies combined with corporate investments. 

In Spain, the success of the organic market is driven by younger generations. The millennial demographic is the most actively engaged with organic, thanks in part to a heightened desire for healthier shopping and consumption habits. 
In 2020, Spain’s main organic exports were legumes, fresh vegetables and citrus fruits. Spain is also known for its organic wines and is home to the continent’s largest concentration of organic vineyards. It is the second-largest producer of organic wines in Europe, after Italy.


Now that we’ve got a glimpse of the  organic sector around the world, how does Canada compare? 

In 2017, Canadian organic agriculture was a C$5.4 billion market. Canada is the sixth-largest organic consumer market in the world. Combined, the American and Canadian organic markets account for half of the world’s organic consumption.

Canada’s main organic export to the EU and Japan is wheat, and our main exports to America (our largest organic trading partner) are coffee, blueberries and soybeans. 

Organic agriculture came to Canada in the 1950s, but it was not until the 1990s and 2000s that it began to expand in earnest. 

Canada has never been able to produce enough organic products to meet demand, which means we rely on international imports. Canada has established organic equivalency arrangements with the United States, the EU, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan and Costa Rica. However, this reliance is a missed opportunity for domestic growers. 

To help the sector scale up to better meet demand, the Canadian Organic Trade Association launched the Support Organic Change Fund. It provides financial support to help farmers pay for their organic certification process over the course of their first three years transitioning to organic practices.

On September 10, 2020, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced an investment of over $640,000 to the Canadian Organic Growers (COG). For more information about the state of the Canadian organic market, check out our Organic Industry Quick Facts for 2020-2021.

Final Thoughts

It is inspiring to see how farmers from around the world push to grow organic and regenerative farming practices. The strength of the agricultural sector is dependent on international collaboration  and it is great to see farmers from across the world step up to care for the planet and feed their communities. Together we can accomplish great things. In our next article, we will be going more local to look at creative weed control solutions from Ontario’s organic farmers.

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