There has been an increase in the area of organic land farmed in the UK following a decline over the past decade.
With the exception of 2017, the area of land farmed organically in the UK has fallen every year since 2010, however after hitting a low in 2018, new Defra figures indicate an increase in the 12 months since.
The figures show that in 2019 the UK had a total area of 485,000ha of land farmed organically – an increase of 2.4 per cent since 2018. The increase has been driven by the rise in fully organic land, which has risen by 3.6 per cent compared to 2018, more than offsetting the decrease in the area of in-conversion land.
Fruit and vegetables still represent only around an eighth of organic land use in the UK, with vegetables making up 7.1 per cent and fruit and nuts 5.7 per cent. However at 1,900ha, the area of fruit and nuts either fully organic or in conversion in 2019 represents a 15.7 per cent increase on the 2018 figure. Vegetable land, including potatoes, is up 0.5 per cent at 7,800ha.
Clare McDermott, business development director for Soil Association Certification, said: “We are really pleased to see an increase in certified organic land in the UK in 2019, as well as a 14 per cent increase in farmers with land in conversion to organic with Soil Association Certification last year.
“More and more people are looking for organic products when they shop, leading to the eighth consecutive year of sales growth in the UK’s organic market in 2019 - now worth a record £2.45 billion.
“Recent research has also shown that nature-friendly farming practices like organic can feed the population a healthy diet while radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pesticides. To make this happen we need to be sustainably growing more of our own fresh produce, so we are encouraged to see a 15 per cent increase in the amount of land being used to grow organic fruit and nuts in the UK.
“Converting to organic can be a big business decision that takes time to implement, but with high demand for UK organic in both the shops and on farm, there is confidence in the market. What we need now is for UK government to provide confidence that farming policy will also support them to grow more healthy, sustainable food. The Agriculture Bill and Environmental Land Management Scheme must support farmers to deliver environmental public goods across the whole farm by transitioning to agroecological farming practices, like organic, that look after air, water and soil quality.”