Farmers join Soil Association in calling for a radical rethink of UK organic farming to boost acreage and production

Alex Cullin

Alex Cullen

The UK organic market has delivered its 12th year of positive growth despite global geo-political crises and the cost-of-living crisis at home, the Soil Association Certification’s 25th Organic Market Report 2024 has revealed.

The total market grew 2 per cent in 2023 ending the year at £3.2 billion – almost double its value in 2011, the report, sponsored by RBOrganic Ltd, showed.

And, compared to five years ago, shopper spend on organic is up by one-third, it found.

However, since 2019, the share of UK organic farmland has stayed at a static 3 per cent.

The UK sector’s heavy reliance on imports means that many farmers are currently missing out on the potential benefits organic can bring to their business – and the UK environment in turn is missing out on the benefits organic can bring for nature, the market report said. 

Commenting on the findings, published yesterday (22 February), Soil Association Certification commercial director Alex Cullen said: “The market and macro trends are pointing to an upward trajectory but there are still many challenges and barriers to the level of growth that UK organic should be delivering for farmers – with price the biggest barrier.

“We need a radical rethink if organic is going to reach its full potential and bring organic farming into the mainstream. The entire supply chain must work together to grow the market and unlock demand for homegrown UK organic fresh produce, supported by the government.

“And we can learn valuable lessons from Europe where there is greater support and commitment from governments and retailers for farmers and from some exciting innovations taking place right here across the UK – to make organic more available and affordable.”

Joe Rolfe, managing director of Burgess Farms added: “The organic market in 2022 was tough due to inflation and the cost of living crisis, but in 2023 organic sales returned to a more positive trajectory and are heading in the right direction.

“Organic growers need to be rewarded with fair prices and supported by effective environmental schemes that balance environmental outcomes with food production. When you look at places like Denmark and Germany, growers are supported in a more proactive manner by government.”