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Mixed picture in new, earlier UK organic statistics

Date Published: 20/07/2012

The latest statistics on the UK organic sector have been released by Defra and show a mixed picture of the health of the industry.

Organic Farmers & Growers has welcomed the arrival of the figures at least a month earlier than in previous years, following an undertaking given by the government statisticians to speed up the process, in response to criticism from OF&G in 2011.

The figures show a fall in organic land area across the UK of 7.26 per cent between 2010 and 2011. This is balanced somewhat by a rise of 4.18 per cent in the previous reporting period.

However, Defra releases the figures with the area of organic and in-conversion land combined into one figure, which OF&G believes distorts the true picture (suggesting an almost nine per cent drop in ‘organic’ land area), as in-conversion land is not organic production land. Taken separately, the decline in in-conversion land has slowed significantly on the previous year (27.33 per cent down for 2010/11, against 57.47 per cent down in 2009/10).

OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “There is a very mixed story in the latest organic statistics. I think we can predict that they will be seized on by some as more doom and gloom though, as one of the biggest control bodies, we are neither particularly surprised nor dismayed by the figures. There is a contraction in organic production but, at the sharp end, we also see many success stories and examples of innovation and growth which gives us confidence that the sector will bounce back when the rest of the economy does.”

Mr Jacobs added: “We have to acknowledge the effort made by the Defra statistics team to get these new figures out more quickly than in previous years. They were very open and accepting of our previous criticism of delays in seeing this important data, and I understand they would have had this year’s out even sooner had it not been for circumstances beyond their control. That must be acknowledged and applauded – with a friendly nudge that even earlier figures next year will be very much welcomed!”

The full report can be found on the Defra website by following this link. The headline figures include:

Land areas:

  • Cereals area down by eight per cent
  • Vegetables area (including potatoes) down by 13 per cent
  • Temporary pasture down by seven per cent
  • Permanent pasture down by nine per cent

Livestock numbers:

  • Sheep count increased 18 per cent to 1,162,000 head
  • Pig numbers increased by 11 per cent to 53,000 head
  • Poultry decreased by 27 per cent to three million birds
  • Cattle numbers fell by four per cent to 335,000 head

The combined total of certified producers and processors in the UK fell by five per cent, to around 6,900 at the end of 2011, when the snapshot of control body statistics was taken.

The figures are based on a ‘snapshot’ of data from the country’s organic control bodies which is taken on the final day of each calendar year.