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Organic farmers feel the pressure

Date Published: 31/08/2007

Worrying results from a survey carried out by Graig Producers and Caledonian Organics suggest that up to half of their members could be thinking of reducing stock numbers or even pulling out of organic production.

Graig Producers logoThe chief reason for this finding is cited as rising feed costs, something we’ve been raising the flag over for some time now at OF&G. We simply don’t have anywhere near enough organic arable farmers in the UK, despite the fact that there’s a good premium available for their product.

Caledonian OrganicsIf the results of the Graig Producers survey bears any reality to the picture across the country it could be bad news indeed as demand for organic produce only continues to grow. The two groups have around 500 members (including OF&G licensees), although apparently the findings are extrapolated from just 83 responses – which probably gives a fairly wide margin for error, but is still telling:

Results from the survey of Group members, across Wales, the Borders and South West England, showed that 36% will reduce stock numbers, and a further 9% will leave organic farming, if feed prices remained at 2006 levels or above, and there was no increase in organic lamb and beef prices. In Scotland the figures were slightly lower at 23% saying they would reduce numbers, and 8% preparing to stop farming organically.

This is just one of the signal flares going up at the moment about the organic arable shortage, with a major UK processor about to start making justifiable noise on the topic too (I don’t think they’ve said their piece publicly yet though, so I won’t jump the gun and name them!).

The feeling here is that there’s an inbuilt nervousness about making the switch to organic from a spray-dependent system that many are comfortable with. And with general grain and protein prices high, the incentive to take any risk is hugely diminished. What more can the industry do apart from educate and inform farmers about the rewards of going organic? OF&G is taking more steps to do just that, but ultimately the decision is in the hands of the individual farmers…