BUCHAREST – When communism crumbled two decades ago, Eastern Europeans were only too delighted to discover the fast-food chains that symbolized the West. But today they increasingly long for organic food.

“The general trend is that more and more organic products are being sold in former Soviet-bloc countries,” said Amarjit Sahota, head of the research department of London-based consulting firm Organic Monitor

The Romanian capital recently saw the opening of organic stores named Biofood, or Bio Revolution, and in neighbouring Hungary, organic markets are held countrywide on a regular weekly basis.

In Poland, there are organic corners in almost every supermarket, and in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, the country’s first specialist organic store, which opened last year, now is extending its activities to a neighbouring cafe.

Even Transylvania’s archbishop has converted to pesticide-free food.

“As consumers become more informed about food production, they look for higher quality products,” Sahota told AFP.

Romanian newspapers for instance are multiplying reports on organic agriculture and healthy food, with Adevarul, the biggest daily, creating a “green page” dedicated to environmental and organic topics.

“Romanians were fascinated by McDonalds and Coca-Cola after the 1989 Revolution, but today people think more about their health and are starting slowly to come to organic food,” said Marian Cioceanu, president of NGO Bio Romania.

But the Eastern European market remains a Tom Thumb compared to Western Europe, with research by Organic Monitor showing 2007 organic food and beverage sales amounting to 60 million euros (88 million dollars) in Eastern and Central Europe, compared to 20 billion in Europe as a whole.

In Romania and Bulgaria, for instance, organic food and beverages account for a mere one percent of total food sales, according to Agriculture ministries in both countries.