Sales of organic produce have increased for the fifth year in a row, with the UK sector now worth £2 billion.
Total sales grew by 7.1 per cent in 2016 while non-organic sales continued to decline, according to the Soil Association’s (SA) 2017 Organic Market Report launched today (February 21).
The organisation said it was confident that as the sector – worth about 1.5 per cent of the total UK food and drink market – continued to grow, farmers would see conversion to organic as a viable option.
The last few years have seen demand for organic grow as the overall area of organic farmland declined.
However, head of farming at the SA Liz Bowles said Farming Minister George Eustice’s pledge to continue funding for organic farmers for two more years post-Brexit would give producers some confidence.
A similar support scheme is available in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland is due to open shortly.
“It has been a difficult time for all British farmers but the future looks positive for organic. We are relieved that organic support is set to continue for new applications until at least 2020 and we are constantly working to ensure organic farming is part of all the post-Brexit agriculture discussion,” said Ms Bowles.
“There are good opportunities for organic farmers if you find the right market. Dairy, beef, poultry and eggs have all seen sales growth this year.”
She said British farmers could take confidence in the fact that UK-produced organic products were ‘highly regarded around the world’ bringing increased opportunities for export.
The global organic food market is valued at $81billion and the UK represents around 4 per cent of global sales.
Last year Defra reported the first increase (4.9 per cent) in the area of farmland in conversion to organic since 2007.
Soil Association Certification also reported an increase of 13.5 per cent in the number of farmers applying to become certified.
Key trends highlighted in the report include:
Supermarket sales of organic have grown by 6.1 per cent
Independent retailers have increased sales of organic by 6.3 per cent
Sales of organic home delivery have grown by 10.5 per cent
The organic foodservice market has grown by 19.1 per cent