The organic vegetable market continued to grow last year, according to a DEFRA-funded study by the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA).

In total, 152,100 tonnes of organic vegetables were traded in 2004-2005, representing a 23% increase on the previous year and a total retail value of £223 million, it found.

UK self-sufficiency in organic vegetables increased slightly to 64% (compared to around 60% three years ago) and pre-packers continued to dominate the market with 60% of the tonnage traded (down from 67% in 2003-04).

“The study suggests that the market will continue to grow but communications with pre-packers and wholesalers indicated insufficient availability may constrain the sector in the future,” commented research officer, Natalie Geen.

According to the HDRA, there is a decreasing area of land in conversion, so there could be a shortage of converted land and organic vegetables, or increased reliance on imports. Any supply changes must be made in line with demand and speculative growing could unbalance the market, it said.

Direct sales were also surveyed for the first time. They grew by about 30% over the season and accounted for about 19% of the market – exceeding average organic vegetable market growth and driven by the expansion of several large box schemes.

It is thought that price pressures and high specifications may have encouraged the relative shift away from trading with supermarkets, towards more direct sales routes.

The 2004-2005 UK Organic Vegetable Market report is available from HDRA. Previous reports are available at www.organicveg.org.uk