The English Organic Forum (EOF) – an alliance of trade and research bodies – has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove highlighting that the UK is lagging behind its major European competitors in the development of organic food and farming.
The letter sets out why stronger support for organic farming would be a significant opportunity to deliver both economic and environmental benefits, consistent with government policy aspirations. But it also warns ministers that without increased backing for organic food and farming, Britain could fail to grasp the economic and environmental opportunities the sector offers.
Signed by the Soil Association, OF&G, the Organic Research Centre and other EOF members, the letter (sent 15 March) said it wanted to see organic production represent at least 10% of UK food and farming.
“The UK needs to up its game and focus more on organic food and farming if it is to reach its ambition for a new agricultural policy that delivers public goods as well as economic benefits”
Nic Lampkin, chair of the English Organic Forum and director of the Organic Research Centre, said: “The UK needs to up its game and focus more on organic food and farming if it is to reach its ambition for a new agricultural policy that delivers public goods as well as economic benefits. Organic food and farming is closely aligned to the Government’s key aspiration of a ‘Green Brexit’. We would like to have seen more focus on organic, with all its benefits, in the consultation proposals on future food and farming policy.”
Organic Trade Board chair, Adrian Blackshaw, said that the UK, which has seen annual growth of organic sales of around 7%, “clearly has some catching up to do” to achieve the 20% market growth rates seen in other parts of Europe in recent years.
Setting targets, the Soil Association chief executive, Helen Browning, of the said there was “a significant opportunity for the UK to achieve a share of at least 10% of UK food and farming, given appropriate support.” Meeting more of the current and potential future demand for organic food from domestic production, rather than imports, would deliver economic and environmental benefits, she added.
OF&G’s CEO Roger Kerr picked up on the frustrating absence of the ‘O’ word in the current debate. He said, “We are surprised that organic wasn’t more widely identified in the consultation documents. Organic production is backed up by a legal regulation with annual inspections, certification and verification. With this robust approach Defra can have confidence in organic food and farming delivering both economic benefits and public goods for all.”
Green Brexit: What does it mean for organic? A panel discussion featuring Patrick Holden CBE (founder of the Sustainable Food Trust), Helen Browning OBE (chief executive, Soil Association), Guy Watson founder Riverford Organic), chaired Michael Wale, will take place at Natural & Organic Products Europe in the Natural Food Theatre on Monday 23 April at 13.00-13.45.