Mixed fortunes reported in organics sector

The latest Organic Market Report from promotion and certification body the Soil Association paints a mixed picture of the organic sector, with sales returning to growth in 2013 yet the land area given over to organic production still in decline.

Sales of organic products were 2.8 per cent higher than in 2012, led by independent retailers and upmarket supermarkets Sainsbury's and Waitrose, all of which saw rises of around seven per cent. Goods carrying the Soil Association logo rose five per cent, while online retailer Ocado saw organic sales rise by more than 10 per cent, a figure matched by the rise in catering and restaurant sales.

Veg box suppliers Abel & Cole and Riverford together rose nearly 18 per cent, and organic vegetables were up 3.4 per cent overall.

Soil Association certification chief executive Rob Sexton said: "To see the organic market showing such strong signs of growth, particularly when grocery sales as a whole are slowing, shows just how much potential there is in the sector."

But the area of UK land being farmed organically continues to fall from a peak of nearly 750,000ha in 2009 to just over 600,000ha last July - around 3.5 per cent of all farmland. The number of organic producers and processors also fell, by six per cent to 6,487, with falls of more than 10 per cent in Scotland, Northern Ireland and north-eastern England.

"There is a risk that supply of some key commodities may dip just as demand is picking up, putting imported organic products on the shelves where UK products could be," the report warns.

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