More than 30 organisations representing the UK organic food and drink sector have written to Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, and the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, to express “deep concern” about the future of trade and certification of organic products between the UK and the EU.

The letter warns of detrimental impacts on the organic market, highlighting that organic food exports from the UK face being excluded from the EU market if mutual agreement between the UK and EU is not achieved by the end of the year.

Global sales of organic products are rapidly approaching £100 billion and the UK is the world’s ninth largest organic market. Organic food and drink sales also boomed during the lockdown earlier this year, with the sector on track to hit the £2.6 billion mark by the end of the year, up on earlier industry predictions.

The groups behind the letter warn that unless organic standards ‘equivalence’ is secured as part of the negotiations, the UK will lose access to EU markets automatically at 11pm on 31 December 2020. This, they say, would bring significant practical and financial problems for a dynamic, fast-growing and highly prized part of the British food scene.

Roger Kerr, chairman of the UK Organic Certifiers Group (UKOCG), said: “The market for organic food is an essential, and growing, part of the UK’s import and export economy and is one of a very few sectors which potentially face overnight exclusion from a vital market if a mutual recognition agreement between the UK and EU is not achieved before the December 31 deadline.

“…we are urging the UK Government to recognise what is at jeopardy here as we enter a new regime with the EU”

“By co-signing this letter as a sector, we are urging the UK Government to recognise what is at jeopardy here as we enter a new regime with the EU. Securing mutual agreement between the UK ad the EU in relation to organic certification must be a priority for the negotiators.”

Richard Hampton, managing director, of leading organic milk supplier Omsco, said: “Growth in organic food and drink sales has accelerated globally during the Coronavirus pandemic. The UK is very well placed to take advantage of these trade opportunities given the strength of the UK organic production sector and the UK’s reputation for high quality and product safety. At Omsco, we are seeing this trend first hand, with European customers seeking increased volumes for next year for our quality organic dairy products sourced from our UK organic dairy farmer owners.

“Access to the European market is vital not just because of the growth opportunities that it affords, but also because our spread of markets and products allows us to deliver the flexibility and availability to our UK customers and consumers. The loss of these markets will damage efficiencies, reduce flexibility and increase costs at a precarious economic time.

“We are just one of many successful UK organic food businesses in this position and we need an urgent resolution to the situation.”

The signatories of the letter were:

Organic Trade Board
Omsco
Food and Drink Federation (FDF)
Food and Drink Federation Scotland
Food and Drink Federation Cymru
FDF Organic Group
National Farmers Union (NFU)
Soil Association

On behalf of the UK Organic Control Bodies:
BDA Certification
OF&G (Scotland)
Organic Food Federation
Organic Farmers & Growers
Soil Association Certification
Quality Welsh Food Certification
Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers
Breakfast Cereals UK
British Coffee Association
British Growers Association
British Importers and Distributors Association
British Oat and Barley Millers’ Association
British Starch Industry Association
Cereal Ingredient Manufacturers’ Association
Chilled Food Association
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Gluten Free Industry Association
International Meat Trade Association
Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
Seasoning and Spice Association
Provision Trade Federation
UK Association of Producers of Yeast
UK Flavour Association
UK Tea and Infusions Association