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BOBL Final Conference

The Welsh Government and EU funded Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project held a closing conference in Builth Wells on 21 May. The conference brought together 60 delegates from organic supply chain businesses and stakeholders organisations. It looked back on the development of the organic sector in Wales and set down the foundations needed for a sustainable and resilient industry in 2020.

Dafydd Owen, BOBL Project Director looked at how the project had developed in response to market signals and experience gained and outlined some of its achievements since its inception in 2009. He emphasised that organic was more than a set of production standards and encompassed four principles: Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care. These values resonated with people and communities, and it was important that they were communicated equally. Over 500 farmers are committed to organic production for the next five years through the Welsh Government Glastir Organig scheme and there is a growing market for organic products. The percentage of organic land in Wales is now 6.5%, compared to an UK average of 3.3%.

Dafydd Owen BOBL Project Director said:
“The organic sector is well placed to develop the part it plays in the rural economy of Wales and support the implementation of Welsh Government strategies relevant to the environment and the community. This is a real contribution to sustainability and resilience.”

The keynote speaker, Mr Duncan Sinclair, Agriculture Manager for Waitrose gave an overview of the organic supply chain in the UK, and the challenges of supplying it on a commercial basis.

The conference theme, Resilience and Opportunities: Sustainable Organic Marketing and Production in Wales was the context for the launch of a report on the Organic Retail Market within Wales. Susanne Padel, one of the authors and a senior programme manager at the Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm presented its key conclusions.

Mark Jones of the Welsh Government funded Rural Regeneration Unit looked at food health, community and the economic benefits delivered by a network of food-coops established in Wales.

The afternoon session was led by Professor Nic Lampkin, Executive Director of the Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm and looked to the actions needed to deliver a thriving organic sector in Wales. Morning workshops on supply chains, communicating the benefits of organic production and food in the community gave detailed consideration to the achievements of the BOBL project in these areas. The afternoon workshops looked at the actions needed to develop a strategy and roadmap to take the Welsh organic sector through to 2020. These actions will be written into a draft strategy which will be the basis for a consultation with the organic sector in June.

Dafydd Owen added:
“This conference was an opportunity to look at the future we want and influence the investment needed to make it happen. We all need to work together to build on what has already been achieved and learnt and realise the vision of a bright future for the organic sector in Wales.”

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