Organic sales surge

The sale of organic goods has risen dramatically in the past year as consumers seek to protect themselves from potentially harmful chemicals and demonstrate their commitment to the environment.

The Soil Association, the principle body granting organic status to UK producers, claims that in 2006 organic sales reached £2bn in the UK, up 22% on the previous year.

Some areas saw even faster growth, with sales of locally-produced veg boxes up 53% and organic cosmetics up 30%.

In other areas domestic production is failing to keep pace with demand and the UK is having to import organic goods to meet consumer needs.

This is particularly noticeable in the cereals sector, where self-sufficiency in organic grains is below 50%.

This causes knock-on problems for the organic meat and dairy sectors, as feed for livestock must be certified organic for them to retain their own organic status.

Poor global harvests and the diversion of cereals into biofuel production are also forcing up the cost of feed, says the Soil Association.

Helen Browning, Soil Association director of food and farming said: “These figures are extremely encouraging, the year on year growth in sales not just in food and drink, but also the newer booming clothing and health and beauty sectors confirm organic has moved well beyond a mere fad or niche.

“While this year’s report confirms a positive future for organic food and farming, the organic movement faces challenges in the long-term from climate change and rising oil prices, as do all farmers and growers.

“Rises in feed and fuel prices will need to be reflected in food prices at the check-out that enable farmers to get a fair return on their production costs.

“It’s fantastic to have such strong public support for and understanding of the benefits provided by organic farming, but that must urgently extend to more widespread acceptance, by retailers as well as consumers, of the true costs of producing staple foods like eggs, milk, meat and bread sustainably.

“The significant short-fall in UK grown organic cereals is a major concern, forcing greater reliance on imports for livestock feed – but of course, it is also a major opportunity for current non-organic cereal farmers to convert and supply a guaranteed and growing market.”

“With the government’s own studies confirming that organic farming typically uses 30% less energy than non-organic farming, it’s not surprising more and more people are choosing to purchase planet-friendly, organic food.”

Sam Bond

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