VOLUME GROWTH in the organic vegetable market slowed noticeably last season, according to a HDRA (Henry Doubleday Research Association) survey.

The total volume of organic veg traded increased by 3% over 2003/04 to 123,500 tonnes – noticeably less than 2002/03, when the market grew by 23%, the survey of packers and wholesalers found.

But while growth in volume terms was lower, the trend towards more high value, low volume crops meant the retail value of organic veg increased by 17% in 2003/04, the HDRA‘s Natalie Geen said.

Reflecting this trend, the area and volume of organic potatoes in the survey fell 9%, while the area of all other crops increased by 30%, she said.

“The most noticeable increase was in carrot and salad crop production.”

The survey also found UK self-sufficiency rose slightly last season to 60% on average, but this masks significant variation between individual crops.

“There may be potential for increasing UK sourcing of organic carrots, cauliflower and cabbage to approach conventional levels.

“In contrast, organic lettuce and tomatoes already exceed the level of UK sourcing of their conventional counterparts,” she added.

 Key survey findings

  • Total organic market in 2003-04: 123,500 tonnes
  • Volume up 3% on 2002-03
  • Organic veg area increased 14% in 2003-04
  • Retail value increased 17% to £197m
  • 60% produced in the UK
  • 67% sold through pre-packers & supermarkets