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UK: Organic market shows signs of recovery, but land area falls

After several years of decline since 2008 due to the recession, the organic market in the UK is finally showing signs of recovery. In May 2013, new figures from Kantar Worldpanel revealed that organic sales through supermarkets had increased 1.6 percent over the previous three months.


The increase is the first time the sector has seen year on year growth since 2009, and brings sales back to their May 2011 levels. Soil Association market intelligence work also shows organic sales have increased through independent retailers, catering and online.

Jim Twine, the Soil Association’s business development director, has credited the horsemeat scandal as the turning point for many consumers; “Recent moves from supermarkets, with the exception of Waitrose, to allow GM animal feed into the supply chain are also likely to impact on sales because the only way to avoid eating chicken or eggs from animals on a GM diet is to buy organic.”

Waitrose has also reported a resurgence in organic food sales in the wake of the horsemeat scandal and the GM debate. Speaking at the opening of Waitrose’s Greenwich branch in June, Managing Director Mark Price said that after flatlining for years, organic food sales were up 6.6 percent in the latest quarter. He attributed its renewed popularity to the concern about traceability and authenticity. “I think it’s in reaction to GM, horsemeat and the neonicotinoids debate, that has made people buy into organic”, said Price.

Producers too are reporting increased premiums for beef and potentially for milk, as supply shortages become a real prospect, with more producers leaving the sector than are converting, and with the demand growth returning.

The latest organic statistics published by Defra, the UK's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, in June show that the total area of organic and in-conversion land in the UK in 2012 fell to 606,000 ha, compared with a peak of 744,000 hectares in 2008. While the biggest decline over this time has been experienced in Scotland, both England and Wales have also seen reductions in the last two years, Horticultural production in particular saw a 22 percent fall from 2011 to 2012.

Author: Susanne Padel, The Organic Research Centre Elm Farm

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Susanne Padel, The Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, Hamstead Marshall, UK




Dr. Susanne Padel
The Organic Research Centre Elm Farm
Hamstead Marshall
Newbury, Berkshire RG20 0HR
United Kingdom
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