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Organic sector grows

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.58.23THE SOIL ASSOCIATION has revealed Britain’s organic market continued to experience steady growth for a third year, with sales rising by 4.9% in 2015.

According to the newly published 2016 Organic Market Report, sales of organic foods have continued to outperform the non-organic grocery market which decreased by 0.9% in the same period.

Increasing sales mirror a pattern seen around the world, but after a multi-year dip beginning with the recession in 2008, the UK sector remains behind those of neighbouring European countries.

According to the Soil Association, animal welfare has been a key motivator for consumers who are increasingly choosing organic because they want to know the origins of their food, and are willing to pay more for products with quality assurance standards that give animals a better life and more space to roam.

Direct selling has also helped organic farms thrive, giving producers more control and opportunity to develop their brand.

Liz Bowles, head of farming at the Soil Association, commented, “The UK organic sector is now in steady growth, signalling a positive future. More consumers are taking food provenance seriously and we have seen a rise in sales of organic eggs and poultry thanks to increased awareness around animal welfare.

“Although it has been a difficult year for dairy farmers, the organic dairy sector has weathered the storm and dairy farmers have been agile at exploring other markets, with OMSCo exporting to both the US and China. On the tail of new research in the British Journal of Nutrition last week showing organic dairy and meat is nutritionally different, it has never been a better time to be an organic farmer.”

However, despite the growth in sales, the UK’s share of organic farmland fell again in 2015. Around 3% of land is farms organically in the UK, though this contracted by 4.9% in the year to February.

Even so, the certification body said the trend has already started to reverse, with more farmers reportedly buying land for organic conversion. The size of organic farms has also reportedly increased; the average size of an organic farm increased by 10 hectares in 2015.