Organic farmers’ optimism

ORGANIC farmers are feeling optimistic about the future of the sector despite the effects of the global downturn, they say.

Lavenham-based organic cereals producer John Pawsey, who sits of the National Farmers’ Union’s Organic Farming Issue Group, said his profits had been growing over the past two years. He predicted that the organics sector in the UK would not grow as quickly as looked likely before the global banking crisis, but would see slow growth in the coming years.

Andrew Burgess, director of agriculture at Produce World, the UK’s largest grower of organic vegetables based in Peterborough, said there were lots of reasons to be positive about the future of organics.

“Without a doubt organics have been under pressure since 2008, and we have seen sales volumes decrease in potatoes and brassicas. However, we haven’t seen any significant erosion of the organic carrots market, and we are now actually seeing year-on-year growth,” he said.

“At the same time, organic has a significant advantage over conventional methods of growing as it has not experienced the same level of increased costs. Because we don’t use herbicides, pesticides or oil-based fertilisers, our input costs haven’t had the same inflationary pressures. In addition, growers and agronomists at Produce World have been working to improve both the quality of produce and the yields.”

Mr Pawsey, whose wheat yield this year was ‘average’ in spite of the drought, said there was still a strong niche market for organics, and farmers’ savings in input costs could not be under-estimated.

He supplies pig producer BQP with organic barley, wheat and bean feed, and said supermarkets were increasingly wanting to see UK-sourced feed as well as livestock.

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“Supermarkets increasingly when they are looking at high-end organic products are wanting them to be fed from a trusted source,” he said. “When I first came into organic production in 2001 we were getting an average of �145 a tonne for our wehat. we are now getting an average of �245 a tonne, so whatever way you look at it, we are doing as well farming organically as conventionally.”

He predicted organic sales would grow slowly. “There are still enough consumers out there for that niche market,” he said.