Organic producer numbers grew in 2018 in spite of uncertainty in the sector.
While the number of organic processors has declined, bucking the trend seen over the previous five years, the number of organic producers has increased.
According to Defra’s organic farming statistics for 2018, the number of organic producers were up over 2 per cent since 2017 at 3544.
Overall organic land area has reduced, indicating a shift away from larger farms.
Roger Kerr, chief executive of Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G), said it reflected confidence in the sector.
“Continued growth of consumer demand for high-welfare and environmentally friendly produce has seen organic sales increase steadily in the last seven years, which has in turn triggered an increase in organic farm conversions.”
He added organic farming also continued on its positive trajectory on a global scale, with organic land area and producer numbers at an all-time high.
Its licensees had increased by 2.5 per cent driven by new entrants to organic.
OF&G certifies half the organic land in the UK and Mr Kerr believes their year-on-year growth was a result of working with a growing number of very successful organic businesses.
“Our producers are achieving good economic returns, even in the current economic and political uncertainty facing the agricultural industry.”
He added with increased agro-chemical regulation and the potential for currency volatility to affect input and output prices, businesses were looking at their options to reduce risk.
He said there continued to be high rewards on offer for those who can make the system work, particularly organic cereals.
“For instance, when taking both yield and price into consideration, it is now possible to achieve 90 per cent of conventional outputs in organic cereals with significantly lower variable costs and working capital.
“However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and converting an entire arable farm in one go can be quite an overwhelming prospect.
“But it doesn’t all have to be done at once. An organic system in one part of a farm can work synergistically with conventional enterprises in other areas.”
Mr Kerr added it needed careful consideration of which area of the farm could benefit from switching and ’implementing agroecological techniques’.