Wales' organic farmers are on a new path after a period of change. The 2014 Organic Centre Wales Producer Survey has shown that the decline in the area of land being managed organically as farmers reached the end of their five year agreements has come to an end, and that Wales now has a committed core of around 500 organic farmers and growers.
The survey was well supported by producers with a response rate of 73% and conducted by telephone during November 2014. Organic sales reflect the changing fortunes of the different sectors. Organic dairy sales rose by 24% to 56million litres in 2014 while the number of beef cattle sold as organic went up by 19% to 7,600. These increases were achieved despite a fall of 13% in the area of land being farmed organically. The sheep sector went against the trend, with sales down by 18%, despite a premium being paid for finished lamb for much of the year.
Data from other sources support the results and indicate the UK market for organic food is back in growth, despite an overall fall in food sales through multiple retailers. The OCW survey shows there is plenty of potential for increasing the value that organic premium already adds to Wales' agricultural output. Estimates based on the response show the proportion of livestock sold into the conventional market was similar to the previous year, 2013, with 41% of fully organic finished lambs (46,000 lambs), 27% of store cattle (1300 head), and 74% of store lambs (20,000) being lost to the organic market.
As 2015 progresses the stable production base and growing market should realise the potential for increased premiums for beef and lamb, especially during seasonal troughs in supply such as late spring in the lamb sector. This would explain why producers in most sectors are optimistic about the future, although beef farmers were less so due to the pressure on beef prices in 2014.
Dafydd Owen, Centre Manager for Organic Centre Wales said “The data in this survey confirms that Wales now has a settled organic production base which is more closely aligned with market demand. This is a continuation of the realignment seen in 2013 and is reflected in the premium achieved by many organic producers. This re-balancing of supply in a growing organic market will create opportunities for the farmers who have committed to organic production for the next five years and improve the resilience of their business.”