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Organic sector thriving on back of strong market growth

Date Published: 18/05/2017

Organic conversion increase

Latest government figures on UK organic food production show the sector is continuing to thrive on the back of strong market growth, says organic licensing body OF&G.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsDefra’s organic farming statistics show that while the amount of organic land fell by 3.6% in 2016, the amount of UK farmland in organic conversion rose by more than 22%.

In England, the picture was even stronger, with the data showing a 47.2% increase in land in organic conversion.

Roger Kerr, chief executive of the largest organic farming certifier OF&G, said that while the UK’s overall organic land area may have slipped, there were very promising signals for the sector.

“There are plenty of things to be cheerful about in these latest statistics from Defra,” he said.

Roger Kerr OF&G chief executive

“The amount of land in organic conversion shows that farmers are recognising the huge potential from the sector to make a profit from farming organically.

“Industry figures show that the UK’s organic food sector is the only food sector showing consistent growth, with increases of between 7 and 10% reported this year.

“And with demand for organic products in the UK and globally predicted to grow again this year, we know UK farmers, growers and processors are attracted to organic production.

“These figures show there is much to be positive about.”

Defra’s latest statistics, which were published on Thursday (18 May) show that permanent pasture continues to account for the biggest share of the country’s organic area.

The number of organic cattle increased on the previous year, while organic pig numbers rose by 5%. Organic poultry numbers have shown the largest increase, rising by 10% to just over 2.8m birds.

The figures also reveal that the number of organic processors is up by 14% to 2804.

“Overall UK organic processors are up 14% but at OF&G we’ve seen an increase of nearer 20%,” says Mr Kerr.

“That growth is hugely encouraging for everyone in the organic sector working hard to fulfil increasing demand.

“British agriculture needs support now more than ever, especially as we enter negotiations over the country’s trading future.

“As demand increases for quality food, more support is needed to ensure UK production increases, and organic is pointing the way forward.

“We need more domestic production to feed the growing demand for quality food and organic has a critical part to play in that.”

The Defra organic farming figures are available, here.