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Season’s greetings from OF&G

Date Published: 23/12/2009

It’s that time of year again. You know the one. It’s when we all say things along the lines of “Blimey, it comes around faster each year.”

Without the benefit of deeper analysis, you can probably sum up 2009 in organics as “not too bad”. Let’s face it, it certainly could have been worse.

This time last year, and into the start of this, we were wrestling with talk of a “feed break” to help struggling producers. It was very badly portrayed as an idea to lower the defences of organics when the going got tough. It wasn’t that and it never got beyond a talking point, but it didn’t give us a very positive beginning to 2009.

From there we were all still wrestling with the realities of the economy and still wondering how bad it was all going to get. That’s where some of the good news kicks in for many. Figures that have been knocking around in recent weeks suggest there was no collapse of the market for organic food. Some dips, yes. But demand remains and most producers have reasons to be positive as we go into a new year.

Across the sector we’ve all felt some pain, but we go on and there’s still so much to do.

The summer saw the Food Standards Agency release a report that baffled many knowledgeable people by claiming that there was no nutritional benefit to organic food. Putting aside that organics doesn’t sell itself on nutrition, it’s going to become pretty clear in 2010 that this was wrong and unhelpful. It made for some very negative headlines as the naysayers were given their head in the national media.

As far as we’re concerned the rest of the year held many positives. Our National Organic Cereals event in July was a tremendous success that saw one of the biggest and most useful dedicated gatherings of organic farmers, buyers, processors, merchants and service providers ever seen. Connections were made and information was shared. It was a truly useful event and will be repeated, in another part of the country, in 2010.

Following this we held our first conference aimed at processors. It was called Selling Organics: What’s the Story? and took a long hard look at what we are saying to our customers and how we are saying it. Held at London’s South Bank University it was attended by almost all of the key people in the sector and was very well received. Again, it focused on practicalities, not rhetoric – something that has been missing from the discussion for too long.

Highlighted at the conference was the Sustain-led OrganicUK initiative (discussed plenty of times in this blog). This hugely positive bid to attract industry funding and matched EU money to promote organic to a wider audience is on course now and we will learn in the New Year if it will be successful in getting Euro cash. It has been heartening to see the sector putting its money behind it – from the big brand names to individual farmers and processors who can see the benefits.

Every year brings its challenges for a growing part of the food and farming landscape, and always will. But if we were to sum it up we’d have to say it’s been a year of progress, certainly for OF&G and hopefully for its licensees and the organic sector in general.

Thank you for dropping in to this blog this year and we’ll try and keep it relevant throughout next.

Merry Christmas and a happy prosperous New Year to all.