Topic: Rethinking Organic Farming in the Post-Socialist Context: Lessons from Bulgaria
Keywords: organic farming policy; policy transposition; organic sector development; Bulgaria
On the basis of an in-depth qualitative study covering the period between 1990-2015, this article discusses the case of Bulgaria as an example of a new EU Member State that implemented EU organic farming policies in a top-down process during EU accession. We explore the difficulties in transposing a concept originating in Western Europe to post-Socialist countries, and particularly ask what this transposing of an alien concept means for long-term development of the organic sector. We found that the top-down agenda-setting for organic farming in Bulgaria resulted in inefficient policies that inhibited an orientation of producers towards the market’s needs. Tacit assumptions underlying the concept of organic farming in Western Europe, such as the relevance of social capital could not be sustained in Bulgaria, which added to the challenges of policy implementation. To increase policy efficiency, we recommend a policy process that involves the expertise of all organic sector actors, including organic operators, but also policymakers, organic organisations, consumers and academic experts. Expertise and knowledge requirements are diverse, touching policy, market, collective action and practice-oriented skills. Integrating these skills could maximise success in finding the best solution for implementing – and adjusting – a foreign concept meaningfully in a particular local context.