The amount of land farmed organically in the UK has risen for the first time in over 10 years as a consumer interest in organic as a ‘solution’ has begun to translate into interest in organic farming.
During the last year, the amount of organic land rose by 1.9 per cent, the first increase since 2008, while it’s the third year of growth for the amount of land in conversion to organic.
“There’s no doubt about it, the steady and dynamic growth in organic is having an impact on the interest in organic farmers,” said trade consultant at the Soil Association, Finn Cottle.
“Organic is not only really relevant to the consumer in terms of the diet choices that people are making, it we’re also seeing more positive noises about organic farming being the solution.”
Cottle was speaking at the launch of the Soil Association’s annual Organic Market Report, which found that overall sales of organic are up 5.3 per cent, with most of the growth coming from fruit and veg, and canned or packaged food.
But despite the positive signs of an increase in organic farming in the UK, chief executive of the Soil Association Certification, Martin Sawyer, warned that the country still faces a “weak supply” base of organic food, and more support for the sector, through legislation such as the upcoming Agriculture Bill, will be vital to encourage more interest in organic farming.
“The UK is underpinned by a weak supply of organic, and there is a moment in the future when this could be critical, especially when other markets are growing so much faster than us,” he said, addressing the UK’s reliance on imports to cater for the growing demand for organics.
“But I will say that organics is incredibly relevant and well-positioned in terms of policy thinking,” he continued. “There is a new wave of consumers who are much more informed, and organic is broadly aligned with the sustainability agenda.”
Chief executive of the Soil Association’s charity arm, Helen Browning, said that the organic sector must collaborate with other organisations where it can, in order to achieve a more widespread impact.
Speaking about collaborating with larger farming organisations, such as the NFU, Browning said: “It is not enough to make a small change, we need to transform everything.
“We don’t need to be the hot potato that policymakers and NGOs don’t want to touch because it will alienate other people. We do need to work with everyone and allow others to move on.”