Growing Welsh organic sector remains competitive
The latest Welsh Organic Production and Market Report from Organic Centre Wales shows that the Welsh organic sector saw significant growth to more than 950 producers in 2008. The annual survey of producers shows an increase from 100 producers per year converting in 2005 and 2006 to 150 per year during 2007 and 2008. The survey data suggests that organically managed land in Wales now extends to over 100,000 ha, around 8% of Welsh agricultural land, the majority being grassland. Horticultural and arable production cropped land areas are still small, although accounting for a relatively high proportion of total Welsh land use of this type.
Dr Nic Lampkin, one of the authors of the report and Chair of the Organic Strategy Group commented, â€śThe primary concern of Welsh organic farmers was the reduction in organic premium, evident in many sectors. Despite evidence that the credit crunch has reduced demand for more expensive cuts of meat, recent sales data show that the organic sector has fared no worse than non-organic sales and that organic meat sales through the main multiple retailers were higher in 2008 than 2007. Organic prices have been relatively stable for a number of years, and organic lamb prices are now higher than in 2007. Although organic beef prices were slightly below the 2007 level at the end of the year, higher non-organic beef prices provide a buffer for the organic market.â€ť
Simon Moakes, of the Organic Research Group, and one of the reportâ€™s authors, said: â€śLatest benchmarking data confirm that the organic red meat sector performed well in 2007/8 and will remain competitive even if meat is sold at current conventional prices, which have increased markedly, leading to reduced premiums for organic meat.â€ť
Simon continued, â€śEstimated fully organic livestock numbers remained similar in 2008 compared with 2007, though significant numbers are now in-conversion. There was continued apprehension amongst existing organic producers that the market would be over-supplied, due to the large numbers of livestock now in conversion. However, due to the minimum 2-year conversion period and many producers opting for consecutive rather than simultaneous conversion, it will be a number of years before they produce any organically marketable livestock, allowing time for market development and the sectors to adjust.â€ť
The report shows that the Welsh organic sector is estimated to produce 7000 finished beef animals, 130,000 finished lambs, 80 million litres of milk and 900,000 dozen eggs every year, with around 4000 ha of arable crops and 400 ha of horticultural crops. Around 90% of this output was sold as organic, varying between almost 100% for dairy and cropping, and only 75% for lamb, mainly due to over-supply during the autumn.
Sue Fowler, Director of Organic Centre Wales, commented: â€śDespite producer concerns of reduced organic premiums and higher feed costs, latest cost of production data continue to show that Welsh organic producers are out-performing their non-organic counterparts. However, continued market development is required to maintain this position especially as additional organic beef and lamb will enter the market in 2010 and beyond.â€ť
The survey was carried out by postal and telephone survey in October and November 2008 with support from Farming Connect. The survey of registered Welsh organic producers had a response rate of 62% (672). The report can be requested free of charge from OCWâ€™s Organic Conversion Information Service helpline (01970 622100) or downloaded from www.organic.aber.ac.uk/survey2008.
Sue Fowler, Director, Organic Centre Wales, Aberystwyth University, Tel. 01970 622248, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Moakes, Research Associate, IBERS, Aberystwyth University; Tel: 01970 628594, e-mail email@example.com
Notes for the editor
1. The report can be downloaded from http://www.organic.aber.ac.uk/survey2008 or you can request a copy (free of charge) from Organic Centre Wales.
2. The survey was financially supported by WAG and EU funds as part of the Farming Connect Organic Development Programme.
3. Organic Centre Wales is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to provide information on organic food and farming to producers, food businesses, consumers and others. It is based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.
3. The Organic Conversion Information Service (01970 622100) is funded by WAG to provide information to producers considering conversion â€“ an information pack and free on-farm visits are available.
4. The Organic Farming Scheme is open for applications until 20 March â€“ further information can be obtained from WAG Divisional Offices and OCW.