Lisbon, June 8 (Lusa) – Portugal’s government on Thursday approved a National Strategy for Organic Agriculture and a Plan of Action for the production and promotion of organic food products, as foreseen in the Socialist administration’s programme for government.
In a statement released after Thursday’s regular weekly cabinet meeting, the government said that the strategy and plan “aim to reinforce the economic scale and competitiveness of the activity of organic agricultural production, stimulating the supply and consumption of organic products nationally and fostering their export.”
The government is also to create a National Observatory for Organic Production, whose “principle functions [are] to assess and present proposals to revise the National Strategy for Organic Agriculture”.
The minister for agriculture, Luís Capoulas Santos, had unveiled the draft strategy at the end of March, announcing then that future bids to cultivate state-owned agricultural land would be assessed with “positive discrimination [for] organic agriculture producers and young farmers”.
The preference on state-owned land to be given to organic cultivation is one of 53 measures in the plan of action presented in March, whose three main thrusts are production, promotion and markets, and innovation, knowledge and diffusion of information.
The strategy has a 10-year term and is to be revised after five. It was put out to public consultation for three weeks before Thursday’s cabinet decision. Among the targets laid down in the final version are a near doubling of the area used for organic agriculture to some 12% of total cultivated land in use (currently 7%, although in the Alentejo region it is 64%), and a tripling of the area used for fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, cereals and other crops for direct consumption or processing.
The government also wants to double organic livestock and fish-farming output, with higher-than-average increases in pigs, poultry, rabbits and bees, as well as the domestic capacity to process organic products.
The plan of action also foresees measures to encourage organic production in protected and vulnerable areas and reduce red tape where it comes to certifying products, and moves to distribute more organic products in school meals and public canteens, as well as the provision of more information online about official controls on such products and the introduction of a reduced rate of value-added tax on organic products.
There is also to be more professional training on organic production, better statistical information and markets, technical support and research in the field.
PL/ARO // ARO.