Organic farming is an important priority in the agricultural development policy in the Republic of Bulgaria and one of the highlights of the Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2014-2020.

Encouraging farmers to switch to or maintain organic farming contributes simultaneously to: environmental protection – strengthens agro-ecosystems, preserves biodiversity and enables future generations to benefit from preserved nature; healthy food production – this form of agriculture meets the needs of a growing number of consumers, as it uses safe and transparent production methods; social effect – creates employment in rural areas and more jobs while creating a basis for the development of multifunctional agriculture.

Fig. 1 Arable land, permanently occupied areas with crops under organic production and their share of the area, 2018

Organic products are products produced by applying the methods and practices of organic farming and animal husbandry in compliance with the regulatory requirements of the European Union and Bulgaria. Organic farming is a system for the production of agricultural products that serves the recovery and recycling of natural resources. This production protects the environment, as it prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, growth regulators and genetically modified organisms, as well as the use of antibiotics and hormones. Organic production is one of the types of environmentally friendly agriculture, which seeks to apply the principles of biodynamic balance, valid for natural ecosystems and agricultural ones (agroecosystems). Focused on animal husbandry, organic farming is based on raising animals using the natural resources of the area, both as a raw material base for food and as a place where they can express the natural features of their character.

The overall objective of the current organic farming policy and EU legislation is to ensure the sustainable development of the sector. Organic farming is expected to follow the development of the market for organic products in the EU, ensuring the security of the sector. The market for organic products has grown approximately fourfold between 1999 and 2011, while in the ten years between 2000 and 2010, the arable land for organic farming in the EU has doubled. The difference between production and demand in the EU is covered by imports. The consequences of this are the following:

– missed opportunities for EU producers;

– risk of limiting the expansion of the market for organic products;

– risk of reduction of environmental benefits related to organic farming.

The need to improve legislation on organic production is widely recognized in the sector. There is also an unequivocal agreement that organic production should remain close to its principles.

 Based on studies, four main characteristics are defined, which play a key role in consumer choice between similar bio- and conventional products and form the functional characteristics of the products, namely that:

– organic products taste better than conventional ones;

– the consumption of organic products is directly related to health care;

– by purchasing organic products, consumers demonstrate their personal responsibility to protect the environment;

– by paying a higher price, consumers actually stimulate the suppliers of organic products.

Based on these characteristics, it is argued that the choice and consumption of organic products is directly related to the relationship between suppliers and consumers (both parties involved in the exchange), and hence to both concepts – Sustainable Development and Green Life. The organic production method plays a dual societal role, providing on the one hand a specific market that meets consumer demand for organic products and, on the other hand, delivering public goods that contribute to the protection of the environment and animal welfare, as well as to rural development. areas. Organic production creates conditions for the development of multifunctional agriculture in all three domains, which are the subject of the e-TOMATO project – short supply chains, social and didactic agriculture and rural tourism.

The market of organic products in Bulgaria is relatively new and still too small, but at the same time rapidly developing. In the last few years there has been a boom in the market of organic products in our country. The number of farms offering their organic products directly, the number of specialized stores and the number of retail chains that are involved in the distribution of organic food is increasing.

Most of the Bulgarian organic foods and products are intended for foreign markets. Bulgaria is a traditional producer of various types of organically certified honey with excellent quality indicators, as a large part of the production is exported to the world market.


Benefits of organic production related to multifunctional agriculture

Economic

                                                                   Added value, higher income, less energy and nutrients

Social

                                                                    Employment, green image

Healthy

                                                                     Absence of chemicals, mostly minerals

Functional

                                                                     Higher energy content, enhanced immunity

Emotional       

                                                                    Care for family and health, care for nature in rural areas