Britain’s organic market celebrates sixth year of growth

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The Organic Research Centre has shared news of the Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report which reveals that the UK organic market is now worth £2.2 billion, growing 6% in 2017.

The market has had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

In 2017, the amount of farmland in conversion to organic rose 22% as farmers responded to the rise in demand for organic produce

And with payment windows now open for Countryside Stewardship in England and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme in Scotland, the amount of farmland being converted to organic is expected to keep rising, particularly in light of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan which calls for agriculture that supports the natural environment.

Key trends highlighted in the report include:

  • Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2% in 2017
  • Independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7%, and sales for home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5%
  • Sales in foodservice (which includes catering and restaurants) grew by 10.2%
  • Dairy sales increased by 3.1%, and still have the highest share of the organic food and drink market at nearly 29%
  • Sales of meat, fish and poultry grew by 4.1%
  • Fresh produce, up 6.5%, had the highest value growth, equating to over £20m in sales

Millennials are now said to be the biggest customer group

Adam Wakeley of Organic Farm Foods said: “Organic fruit has been a star performer over the past year, and we’ve certainly seen all of fresh organic produce grow. One reason is down to an evolving consumer profile – millennials are now our biggest customer group, and they show a huge interest in food provenance and health. They understand that having food grown in an environmentally friendly way is a good thing. We believe their attitude is here to stay and will continue to drive growth in the future.”

This year has seen booming sales in independent retail and home delivery. Expanding online ranges and growing interest in box schemes, means that these areas are now growing at a faster rate than supermarket sales and between them account for almost 30% of the organic market.  Logo: http://www.organiccentrewales.org.uk/

For some farmers these alternative routes to market, coupled with the increased consumer interest in food provenance, have been crucial to their success.

A press release on 15 March 2018 records that the English Organic Forum has written to Environment Secretary of State Michael Gove as he prepared to address the Prosperity UK Green Brexit Conference in London on Thursday 15th March.

The English Organic Forum represents organic organisations and businesses including: Abacus Agriculture Ltd.; Biodynamic Association; EcoS Consultancy; Future Sustainability; Garden Organic; Institute of Organic Training and Advice; Land Workers’ Alliance; Organic Arable; Organic Farmers and Growers CIC; Organic Food Federation; Organic Growers Alliance; Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative; Organic Research Centre; Organic Trade Board; Soil Association; Triodos Bank; SA Cert Ltd.; UK Organic Certifiers Group.

Header from:   http://www.sopa.org.uk/

The English Organic Forum letter emphasises that the UK is lagging behind its major European competitors in the development of organic food and farming. It sets out why stronger support for organic farming would be a significant opportunity to deliver both economic and environmental benefits, consistent with government policy aspirations.

Nic Lampkin, chair of the forum and director of the Organic Research Centre, says: “The UK needs to up its game and focus more on organic food and farming if it is to reach its ambition for a new agricultural policy that delivers public goods as well as economic benefits. Organic food and farming is closely aligned to the Government’s key aspiration of a ‘Green Brexit’. We would like to have seen more focus on organic, with all its benefits, in the consultation proposals on future food and farming policy.”

Adrian Blackshaw, chair of the Organic Trade Board says: “Many EU countries have seen 20% market growth rates in recent years, with market shares approaching 10% of food sales. Clearly we have some catching up to do just to satisfy growing consumer demand.” Organic farming accounts for 6.7% of farmland under production in the EU (UK 3%). Italy, Sweden and Austria are between 15-20%. President Macron has declared a target of 22% of French farmland to be organic by 2022 and the German government coalition agreement includes a target of 20% of German agriculture to be organic by 2030.

Roger Kerr, CEO of Organic Farmers and Growers, was surprised that organic wasn’t more widely identified in the consultation documents. Organic production is backed up by a legal regulation with annual inspections, certification and verification. With this robust approach Defra can have confidence in organic food and farming delivering both economic benefits and public goods for all.”

The 2017 Out to Lunch report found that organic food had doubled on the high street, with twelve out of the twenty-five restaurant chains surveyed using organic ingredients – up from six in the previous report.

Helen Browning, Soil Association chief executive, said: “Trust is something that’s increasingly important: people want to understand where their food has come from, how it has been produced, and more and more shoppers want to buy local and British. The customer is increasingly interested in the provenance and traceability of their food, and this is an area organic can really deliver on . . . And the growing recognition of organic food and drink in restaurants and cafes creates opportunities for organic farmers to access new markets here at home.”

 

 

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France has announced that at least half of all food bought by the public sector must be organic or locally produced

In February, as sales of organic food continue to rise in France and are reachingrecord levels’ in England, the French Agricultural Minister Stéphane Travert announced the new rules as part of measures to boost the French farming sector, and to improve diets.

Travert (left) said that as France is showing, public procurement can be a “powerful tool” for supporting local and organic farmers and can make an “important contribution” towards improved public health. Public procurement approaches will also support SME producers to gain access to markets, in line with the commitments made in the Industrial Strategy.

The Soil Association’s Policy and Campaigns Manager Rob Percival (right) said the initiative highlights the “power of public procurement” to support better farming practices and improve diets.

He continued: “More ambitious action from Government could further stimulate demand for British, local, and higher quality produce. Michael Gove already has the tools he needs at his fingertips. He must move now to implement DEFRA’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector including education and health, while requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost.”

“Gove must seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to implement a procurement policy at least as ambitious as his French counterpart,” Mr Percival added.

 

 

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Dairy industry collapsing: stabilised by MacDonald government, 61 years later – thrown to the wolves by Margaret Thatcher

In recent years, dairy prices have been on a rollercoaster: at one point in 2015, farmers were receiving less money for their milk than it cost to produce.

Arla has reduced the price it pays farmers for milk. The drop of 1.73 pence follows a small price reduction last month, giving Arla’s British producers 29.27 pence per litre.

Andrew Cozens (below) has a herd of 230 dairy cattle near Stroud, and sells his milk to Arla.

Lucy Taylor interviewed him for Farming Today (Link to audio, Mr Cozens at 8mins 20 secs.

He remembered the 2015 drop to 16p per litre when all the profits saved from earlier years were used up just to keep going. The price drop in January was expected but a further cut in February had been a ‘bolt from the blue’; he added that if the forecasts of further drastic falls in May were correct he would have to sell up and do something else.

NFU Scotland Vice President Gary Mitchell said that dairy farmers in UK have little confidence that the supply chain is fairly sharing returns from high value dairy products with those milking the cows and must deliver fairer returns to milk producers.

UK Milk Prices – The Twenty Years War: an archived 2015 article by Bruce Jobson, published in a dairy breeders’ magazine. Edited extracts:

Farmers were at the mercy of the individual dairies and prices were extremely volatile. In order to establish a fair and coherent system, the British Government established the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) system for England and Wales as well as, separate Boards for Scotland and Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board. Set up in 1933 the MMBs pooled all the milk and guaranteed a minimum price to farmers, providing them with a regular service, and a regular cheque.

“The system proved successful and capable of withstanding the instability of the markets. The collective strength (remember: divide and conquer) provided a negotiation position and a pricing system that secured the liquid market price”.

Deregulation and privatisation were part of the Thatcher Government ideology. Though milk producers voted 99.9% to maintain the MMB system, Thatcher abolished the MMB in October 1994 in England, Wales and Scotland and in Northern Ireland in February 1995. In a democratic world the wishes of 99.9% of UK farmers not to abolish the MMB system would, and should have, prevailed. As a result, thousands of dairy farmers were subsequently ruined and this in turn created the rise of division; and supermarket power.

According to the Farmers Guardian, the farm gate price fell by 28% in real terms between 1994 and 2010. “With no MMB as the counterbalance, in 2000 our farm’s milk began a price drop of 40% in 18 months,” recalled Anthony Bradley, a former farmer from the Yorkshire Dales. £50,000 per annum “effectively walked off” the family farm. “That was the end for us as dairy farmers.” In December 2014, an estimated 16 dairy farmers per week were leaving the industry. For some, enough was enough.

In 1995, there were 35,000+ dairy farms in the UK, now there are 13,000+ (Dairy industry in the UK: Statistics, 2016).

Will the next British government institute a similar co-operative, retaining the advantages of the MMB and restoring the country’s collapsing dairy industry?

 

 

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Absolute power comes from absolute control of food – Devinder Sharma

 This painting is by the French artist Michel Granger.

Is this what we have done to our planet?  

Devinder Sharma shares his interview with French journalist Catherine Andre, posted on January 2018 in the Bhoomi Network emagazine, which shares holistic views on ecological and man-made realities.

A summary

The industrial food production model, developed in the United States and Europe since WWII, and lately widely adopted in South America, is unsustainable and is destroying both the planet and its inhabitants…

The large high-input, high-yield monocultures, with heavy farm machinery running on subsidised fossil-fuel and laced with potent agro-chemicals have not only depleted soil health, but polluted oceans, rivers as well as ground water and has massively contaminated the environment. The decimation of plant and animal biodiversity, and the loss of accompanying ‘traditional knowledge’ has in turn impoverished communities that have lived in synergy with the bio-resources.

The emergence of commodity value chains and the way international trade regimes have been designed, means that developing country farmers have been forced to de-skill, abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities in search of menial jobs. Still worse, the forceful opening of the developing country’s trade barriers and inundation with highly subsidised food supplies, has already turned 105 of the 149-odd Third World Countries into food importing countries.

The best way to address hunger for any developing country is to have production by the masses, and not production for the masses

Producing food and carrying it all the way to different parts of the world has created ‘food miles’ which exacerbates global warming. And ever since the global food crisis in 2007/8, multinational companies are now in a race to grab farm land. Studies have shown that an area equivalent to the cultivable area in China and India has already been purchased or leased in Africa, South America and Asia. But in my understanding the best way to address hunger for any developing country is to have production by the masses, and not production for the masses. Small farmers need to be gainfully employed, in the sense that farming is turned into a profitable enterprise. Political stability apart, the region needs investment in livelihood options which means primarily focusing on restoring agriculture, livestock and the rural infrastructure.

The revival of traditional agriculture, depending on water availability and providing adequate farm prices and market infrastructure is immediately required

At the World Economic Forum 2011 at Davos, business leaders from 17 private companies – including Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International -announced the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade.

While all the targets seem very attractive, the fact remains that world does not need to produce more. As per the USDA report, the world already produces food for 13.5 billion people, which means for double the existing population. Roughly 40 per cent of the food produced globally is wasted every year. The challenge should therefore be to drastically reduce food wastage rather than to raise production thereby causing more environmental depletion.

From an era of food self-sufficiency, India is gradually moving to be an economy of dependence. Successive governments have pushed in policies that promotes privatization of natural resources, takeover of farm land, integrating Indian agriculture with the global economy, and moving farmers out of agriculture – in essence the hallmark of the neo-liberal economic growth model. The result is clearly visible. The millions displaced will constitute the new class of migrants – agricultural refugees. Twice the number of people that are expected to be displaced by global warming worldwide will be pushed out of agriculture in India.

According to Down to Earth magazine, the food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Indian Rs 1,402,680,000,000.

This was three times more than the annual budget for agriculture. Successive governments have actually been following a policy prescription that was laid out by the World Bank as early as in 1996.

Just like the controversial austerity measures in the European Union, the thrust of the economic policies is to cut down on social security, public investment in food, agriculture, health and education. International Financial institutions, credit rating agencies and the multilateral trading organisations have all been pushing for fiscal reforms. This is accompanied with increasing privatisation of natural resources, encouraging corporate agriculture and pushing for public-private partnership projects.

What India needs is a production system by the masses, not production for the masses.

For a country like India, which has 600 million people directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture, food production has the potential to revitalise the Indian economy, be a pivot of inclusive growth.

As I have often said: “Absolute power comes from absolute control of food” So far, the food chain is in the hands of three dominant players. The technology companies, the trading companies and the supermarkets. I see a convergence taking place in the years to come. Three players are swiftly merging into one – the future food factories. Many universities in US/EU have come up with designs for the future food factory, but the most worrying part is that the World Bank is considering how to subsidise it. That will be the end of farmers then.

Whether in Argentina and Mexico, a circle of poison escalated by the application of chemical pesticides, including the controversial glyphosate pesticide, has caused extensive suffering

In India aerial spraying of Endosulfan in cashew plantations in Kerala had for some decades inflicted innumerable diseases/disorders among the people. Lately a train carrying cancer patients from the food bowl of Punjab, engaged in high-intensive agriculture, to neighbouring Rajasthan has come to be known as ‘Cancer Train’.

With six companies controlling pesticides production, and the same companies also claiming intellectual propriety over ‘improved’ seeds, the control over agriculture has become complete. The Poison papers, prepared by the BioScience Resource Project, is a compilation of 20,000 documents that expose decades of collusion between the pesticides industry and regulators. But still, the international community is unwilling to work towards a pesticide-free world.

If consumers demand pesticide and GM-free food, the retail trade will provide it.

Once the demand for pesticide-free food picks up, I see no reason why farmers will not increasingly come under pressure to cultivate without the application of pesticides and chemical fertiliser. The sale of organic food in recent years has picked up enormously in America, Europe and India. I see this as a major development which can shape the future of agriculture, move towards sustainable farming systems.

Consumers rejecting genetically-modified food is primarily the reason why Europe has stood as a wall against the import of GM food from America. European governments are refusing to give way to pressure to allow for GM foods because of public opposition.

The challenge therefore lies in educating consumers, creating wider awareness about their food habits. Once they realise that they are responsible for the environmental damage the world is faced with, they will change. At a time when the world is in the midst of jobless growth, only a sustainably vibrant agriculture can provide livelihoods, save environment, reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, and boost the global economy.

Read the full article here: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/absolute-power-comes-from-absolute-control-of-food-devinder-sharma

 

 

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A fair farmgate price for milk: Crediton Dairy and Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers

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Ian Potter reports that Crediton Dairy is to hold its ‘chart topping’ farmgate milk price at 31ppl until at least March 1st.

The Crediton Dairy Supply Group recognises that, first and foremost, central to both recruiting and retaining farmers, is to pay a competitive, sustainable and attainable price for the milk they produce.

Devon-based Crediton Dairy is a leading supplier of 100% British milks and creams to all of the UK’s major retailers and food service businesses. It is accredited by the Soil Association and are the UK’s only producer of Organic Long Life milk.

By working closely with 70 local farmers, within a 25-mile radius, the dairy has a secure, sustainable and fully traceable supply of high quality, farm assured milk.

All the supplying farmers are fully accredited to the Red Tractor Assurance for Farms – Dairy Scheme and meet the highest standards of animal health and welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.

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Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers will also hold its farmgate milk price.

Barbers manufacturing standard litre price has been a healthy 31.193ppl and its liquid standard litre 30.074ppl. – until at least March 1st.

The Barber family has been farming and making cheese in Ditcheat, Somerset since 1833 making us the oldest surviving cheesemaking business in the UK. Farming and cheesemaking have long been vital parts of the local economy and Barbers specialises in making West Country farmhouse cheddar and work with many neighbouring farmers who supply additional milk, supporting the local farming economy.

The Fairtrade ethos for coffee and other products is widely accepted in Britain and its principle of economic justice should be applied to food produced in Britain – giving food producers a farmgate price which covers the full costs of production.

 

 

 

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Farming news from analysts and practitioners

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Professor Nic Lampkin, Executive Director of the Organic Research Centre,  responded to George Monbiot’s article, Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown:

“He is right on many levels, but what he does not state is that we already have an armoury of solutions to resolve many of the problems that are creating this potential ‘insectageddon’:

“At the Organic Research Centre, we undertake cutting-edge science on agroecological approaches, including the provision of habitats on farms to support insects including pollinators and pest predators, to resolve the environmental conflicts caused by unsustainable farming practices. Farming and wildlife don’t need to be separated – they can be integrated to mutual benefit, as they have been for hundreds of years in European agriculture giving rise to the insect and bird populations which are now in decline.

“Our work with farmers shows that many are already engaged in taking up the challenge for the benefit of providing quality food and protecting the environment.

“But this all comes at a cost. Funding for quality research on sustainable farming, focusing in particular on ecological rather than technological innovation and the means to deliver the results on the ground, is in short supply, especially when short-termism by policy makers is the name of the game. Depressingly, the environment is the ultimate loser and farmers get the blame.

“To implement these solutions, we desperately need the will of policy makers and consumers to trigger change”. http://slideplayer.com/slide/5857449/

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The road to food sovereignty

Pat Mooney, Canadian author or co-author of several books on the politics of biotechnology and biodiversity and Nnimmo Bassey, Nigerian architect and environmentalist activist, outline the concerns of three United Nations organisations in the New Internationalist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE4ubI5XkA4

Their solution for both climate and food sovereignty: “Dismantle the global industrial agri-food system. Governments must give more space to the already growing and resilient interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who, our research shows, already feed most of the world”. The term ‘peasant web’ is used by the authors to include all these food producers.

The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) has published a report: ‘Who Will Feed Us?’ (download link). Some remarkable statistics are given in the report and listed here.

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In Agricology, another organisation, farmers and researchers are sharing knowledge to work towards more resource efficient, resilient and profitable agricultural systems

Over 20 UK organisations are working (see here) on practical, sustainable farming, regardless of labels. Agricology is led by the Game and Wildlife Trust, The Daylesford Foundation and the Organic Research Centre.

A 2014 seminar covered the important role of earthworms in helping to improve soil structure; the improved drainage and cultivation implications of improved soil structure; the beneficial effects on soil structure and soil organic matter (SOM) levels of introducing cover crops into rotations; improving the farm drainage system and knock-on benefits in relation to drilling and improved black-grass control; the importance of waiting for soil to dry out before working it, avoiding compaction; and the impacts of increasing SOM on soil erosion, run-off and soil structure.

The first seminar in 2018 will cover:

  • Herbal leys and pasture fed livestock in arable systems.
  • Experimenting with ley species mixtures for dairy, forage, and soil health.
  • Integrating livestock to graze herbal leys, cover crops, and manage arable weeds.
  • Diverse leys and building soil organic matter.
  • Monitoring the impact of leys on soil health.

Their conclusion: “In response to increasing challenges including declining soil fertility, problem weeds such as blackgrass and increasing cost of inputs, there is a need to rethink the way we farm. Agricology supports farmers and growers to transition to more resilient, sustainable farming systems, bringing together research and farmer experience on agroecological practices (such as reduced tillage, cover crops and reintegrating livestock) to replace inputs with knowledge”.

 

 

 

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‘Bright Blue’ Conservative proposal: damaging to British food producers but profitable to the hospitality industry, commodity speculators and Exim traders

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The proposal by a Conservative think tank opens with a people-pleasing injunction: end the payment of vast subsidies to wealthy landowners after Brexit.

However, those who read and remember more than the headline will begin to see that profits are simply to be redirected.

“The EU system of paying farmers according to how much land they own should be replaced by payments for environmental benefits plus a ‘means-tested livelihood support’ for the poorest”, the report by Bright Blue says. It accepts that the system could reduce food production and make Britain more reliant on imports, which account for 40% of consumption. However, it says that the loss of self-sufficiency is a price worth paying for protecting wildlife and natural beauty.

After a lyrical paragraph about the environment, Bright Blue sheds sentiment and proposes three income sources for food producers (in order of preference?):

  1. A market-based commissioning scheme;
  2. means-tested livelihood support – aka government dole
  3. and/or income from agricultural produce or other monetisable services sold at market prices without any production subsidies.

Yet another nightmare administrative system?

Chapter Three of the report explains, “We envisage ‘suppliers’ bidding together or individually to supply ecosystem services to paying ‘beneficiaries’ in specific catchments on online market-places. Suppliers would include farmers, land owners, and land managers”. 

Voices of sanityTimes readers’ comment:

David Illsley 

How to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons! Lower subsidies for empty fields, yes! but don’t pay farmers to stop producing food only to pay them for planting flowers! This country needs to be self-sufficient in basic foods, milk, grain, meat, food, water, and as much as possible energy. 

Tony Perryman 

So right, when the Chancellor might be announcing a relaxation of greenbelt rules this week. Land and the production of food for the nation is more important; our trading deficit will become a concern post Brexit. 

Keith William Hendry 

Scotland is self-sufficient in fish, meat, dairy products, vegetables & we have copious amounts of water. Our whisky is the biggest net export cash raiser for the exchequer.

Jane Cooper says it all:

“One problem is that UK farmers, farming to support and enhance our environment and with high animal welfare standards, will be competing on a world market with overseas companies that produce food cheaply by trashing their environments, abusing animals and paying slave-labour wages to employees.  That’s not a fair ‘market’ for UK farmers to be competing in.  

“If you can find a way to have farmers fairly paid what it actually costs to produce food in the UK to the environmental and welfare standards expected by most people in UK, then I agree subsidies wouldn’t be needed”.

 

 

 

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