Tag Archives: Helen Browning

Britain’s organic market celebrates sixth year of growth


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.”






March of the mega-farms? No, says Helen Browning, “we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food”

Almost one in 10 dairy farms across England and Wales – more than 1000 – have closed in the last three years, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Their graphic (below) was published on the BBC News website in July.

dairy farm closures 13-16

Up to 30% price cut as inputs cost more

These figures increase fears that the traditional family dairy farm sector is collapsing. There were more than 56,000 dairy farmers working in 1980, but only 14,500 last year. An article in the Guardian reports that in 2016, dairy farmers like Somerset’s dairy farmer James Hole, who supplies milk though a processor to most of the biggest supermarkets, found their milk was worth 30% less than it was this time last year.

Processors prefer to deal with larger producers, avoiding the expense of sending tankers on long journeys to pick up milk from smaller and more remote farms and as dairy farmers on low price contracts increase production in order to increase their income, the. resulting glut on the market has driven prices even lower.

This year’s Kingshay Dairy Costings Focus Report showed the rolling average milk price for Holstein/Friesian milk reducing by 5.7ppl to 24.4ppl with continuing increases in ‘market segmentation’: “The highest 10% paid received 31.3ppl, whereas the lowest 10% averaged 18.7ppl.This gap in the rolling annual price paid has widened to 12.6ppl from 6.9ppl in the year to March 2015,” said Kingshay senior farm services manager Kathryn Rowland.  The report may be downloaded here.

Will production eventually rest with mega farms, warehouse units, currently forming only 2% of dairy farms, compared with as many as 90% in the US? 

factory dairy farm

Or will government intervene to prevent processors from imposing low price contracts on smaller dairy farmers or in future will all cows live in a so-called ‘super dairy’ farms, permanently confined in an industrial-scale building, no longer grazing in fields during the summer months?

Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association, said mega farms were bad for animals and the environment: “Large-scale indoor animal units such as this are common practice in the United States. Experience there has shown that they impact negatively on smaller, family farms, and can have poor environmental and animal health outcomes, as they produce much more manure than the land close by can use, and usually rely on high levels of antibiotics to control disease.

She ends: “The problems facing the pig and dairy industries will not be solved by supersizing production – this fails to deal with the root cause of the issue. It really should not be necessary for a farmer to milk 1,000 cows in order to make a good living. Instead we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food, while expecting the highest standards of care for our environment, animals and health in return.”