Changes to the site mean you can have access without needing to register or to log in

New organic figures show steady progress

Date Published: 03/09/2009

The number of organic farms in the UK has continued to grow despite the sector suffering in the credit crunch, new figures have revealed.

The latest figures for organic land and livestock in the UK, released by Defra, have shown steady progress in spite of a slowdown in sales and rising costs for organic farmers.

Numbers of organic farmers and food processors rose by about four per cent in 2008, taking the total to almost 7,900, with total organic land increasing by a steady three per cent.

The levels of organic livestock also increased, with cattle rising by 28 per cent to 320,000, sheep up by 37 per cent and a huge 41 per cent increase in pigs, despite particular retail pressure on organic pork products.

The only area to see a dip was organic poultry, dropping by two per cent as cost conscious shoppers look to cheaper alternatives to organic eggs and chicken.

The results have been broadly welcomed by Shrewsbury-based Organic Farmers & Growers, which is one of the country’s leading organic inspection and licensing bodies.

Its chief executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “There have been a lot of gloomy predictions about the health of the organic sector, but these figures reflect the reality we have been seeing of stability and even some growth.

“We need to be slightly cautious as the statistics only take in the period up to the end of 2008, but based on the numbers of farms and food processors we are currently certifying, we certainly don’t see a drop off in the first half of 2009.”

Organic food and farming has recently woken up to the fact that it hasn’t marketed itself very well, with shoppers holding very mixed views on why they should buy organic food. A new industry-wide initiative, OrganicUK, is now under way to pull together a national marketing campaign for the sector, supported by match funding available from the EU.

Richard Jacobs added: “There are many positive aspects to organic food and its production. What we need to do now is spell these out clearly for the consumer so that they can clearly understand what organic food and farming has to offer to them, the environment and the welfare of farm animals. OF&G has committed to supporting OrganicUK and we’re urging everyone else in organics to do the same, for the benefit of the whole sector.”