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Abstract

Organic producers in California were surveyed by the author and the Organic Market News and Information Service (OMNIS) to determine: 1) the size of the industry, 2) the commodities grown, 3) acreage under organic cultivation and, 4) growers' perceptions of the production and marketing obstacles limiting expansion. The California organic industry has grown significantly in the 1980s and now is estimated to consist of approximately 900 growers with wholesale sales of about $50 million dollars. Thirty six percent of the respondents farmed on a mixed acreage basis, and the average respondent farmed 38 acres organically with an average farm size of 58 acres. Total California organic area harvested is estimated to be 30,000 acres, with fruits representing about 61 percent of this, and vegetables and nuts each about 13 percent of the total, respectively. Just as for conventional growers, the most important marketing channel for organic producers is sales to wholesalers. However, sales directly to consumers represent twenty one percent of the total volume for organic producers relative to one percent for conventional growers. Organic producers perceive that demand side factors, such as lack of consumer awareness of the benefits of organic products, are the principal constraints to market expansion. In contrast, handlers view limited supply and lack of consistency in quality and pack as the key obstacles impeding expansion.

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