Organic fresh produce sector shows third annual decline

The UK organic vegetable sector showed a third year of decline in 2011, bucking the international trend.

According to latest figures released by Defra, fresh vegetables and potatoes declined faster than other agricultural sectors.

Certified organic areas were down by 13 per cent to 16,000ha - a sharper dip than organic cereals and pasture. The area given to organic fruit and nut growing fell by five per cent, according to the figures.

Organic vegetable growing now represents 11 per cent of all vegetable growing by area, while the area of organic fruit growing accounts for 6.5 per cent of the total. Just 1.2 per cent of the total potato growing area is organic.

The situation contrasts with France, where organic fresh vegetables and fruits grew by 13 per cent and 24 per cent respectively by area last year. The area of organic fruit growing has nearly doubled as a proportion of the total since 2009.

In all, the French organic market grew by 11 per cent to top EUR4bn, and the total area under organic production exceeds one million hectares.

However the Defra-funded Organic Farms Incomes in England & Wales, published last week, found that income for organic farms remains competitive with conventional.

The study was conducted by Aberystwyth University and the Organic Research Centre. Director Professor Nic Lampkin said: "We have seen an increase in income for cropping and horticultural holdings, which is very encouraging."

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