Organic lifeline in the face of sugar factory closures
Date Published: 06/07/2006
Farmers hit by the coming closure of two British Sugar factories should consider organic farming to safeguard their businesses, a leading organic body said today.
Demand for organic arable crops is growing rapidly with no sign that existing organic farmers will be able to meet it, presenting an opportunity for those about to lose their sugar beet contracts.
This is the view of Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G), one of the UK’s leading organic certification bodies.
British Sugar this week announced its intention to close two factories, in Telford and York, next year, potentially affecting more than 2,000 farmers who have contracts to supply them with sugar beet.
But OF&G believes some of those farmers could turn the loss of beet contracts into an opportunity to tap into the booming organic sector.
A number of factors have combined to create a looming shortage of organic cereals and protein crops, which are desperately needed to produce feeds for organic poultry and livestock.
The shortages are pushing up prices for the crops that are available, but feedmill owners now fear they will soon struggle to source enough raw materials to keep their organic customers supplied.
OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “The demand for organic food is constantly on the rise. It’s no longer a niche, it’s what the shopper increasingly wants. This is causing shortages in the supply of proteins and cereals and that shortage is only going to get worse because the percentage of non-organic feed allowed to be given to organic livestock is being reduced on a rolling basis over the next handful of years.
“If we don’t get enough UK arable farmers involved in supplying the organic sector there will be a crisis that could slash supply, push up costs or even force retailers to import more than they already do!
“What has happened at Allscott and York is terrible news for many workers, farmers and their communities. But we want people to be aware that organic may provide a profitable alternative for some of those affected.”
OF&Gs’ national headquarters is in Shrewsbury, not far from British Sugar’s Allscott plant which is earmarked for closure next year along with the factory in York.
Mr Jacobs added: “There are many misconceptions about organic, but it’s just another way of farming that has less impact on the environment. You do not have to convert your whole farm and free advice on conversion is available. It would be a missed opportunity not to at least consider the possibility.”
Farmers affected by the closure who would like to know more about converting to organic production can contact Organic Farmers & Growers on 0845 3305122 or visit www.organicfarmers.org.uk.