The amount of organic farmland in the UK has increased for the first time since 2008, Defra statistics have revealed.
Organic land area increased to 517,000 hectares in 2017, up 1.9 per cent on 2016, following almost a decade of decline. The total area of land farmed organically has fallen by 30 per cent since a peak in 2008.
For the third consecutive year there was also an increase of land in conversion, up 29.4 per cent, reflecting a growing demand for organic products both in the UK and abroad.
In addition, the Soil Association Organic Market Report, published in February 2018, showed a sixth year of growth for the organic market, with sales up by more than six per cent to £2.2 billion – their highest level ever.
Overall the number of organic producers and processors has increased for the fourth year running and the number of processors now stands at approximately 3,000.
The Soil Association said it was seeing an increase in new products being certified and new processors coming to market thanks to increased customer and retailer demand for organic.
Martin Sawyer, chief executive of Soil Association Certification, said: “There is a growth across the organic market for the first time in a decade from field to fork and today’s land statistics are supported by our recent Organic Market Report findings.
“Whilst it is a day for applauding the farming community, it is also a day to remember that it is not a time to rest on our laurels. Without funding, infrastructure and research development, this growth across nations and regions cannot be sustained.”
Following the recent consultation on the ‘future of farming’, the environmental organisation is calling for more support for organic farming systems and practices.