New figures for 2006/07 show Welsh organic farmers achieved returns from milk, beef and lamb to match those on conventional farms.

Organic premiums offset the impact of higher overhead costs and lower product yields, according to the detailed analysis of Farm Business Survey benchmark data by Organic Centre Wales.

The exception was beef breeding, where no significant organic premium price was usually available and net margins were substantially lower.

Some 90,000ha on 800 holdings are now under organic management, the first comprehensive survey of Welsh organic producers shows.

The study shows that like conventional farmers, organic beef and lamb producers could not cover their production costs through sales alone.

“The overall situation for lamb and beef enterprises shows some improvement compared with previous years, but the data shows how reliant farms are on support payments to cover the farm family’s own inputs into the business,” said Dr Nic Lampkin, director of Organic Centre Wales.

When the value of the unpaid input of family labour, land and capital were taken into account margins for both organic and conventional beef production were negative by a significant amount.

The situation on organic units was worse because costs were spread over lower yields, but higher income from agri-environment and single farm payment support was sufficient to offset this.

Milk production statistics (p/l)

 

Organic

Conventional

Output

22.8

18.6

Variable costs

11.0

9.0

Gross margin

11.8

9.7

Overheads

7.6

5.7

Net margin

4.2

4.0

Unpaid inputs

4.7

5.4

Support payments

4.6

3.9

Net return

4.1

2.4

Lamb and beef statistics (p/kg lw)

 

Lamb

Beef breeding

Beef trading

 

Org

Con

Org

Con

Org

Con

Output

141

114

114

121

180

410

Variable costs

66

73

93

85

75

74

Gross margin

74

41

21

36

105

54

Overheads

95

66

169

103

132

87

Net margin

-21

-25

-148

-67

-27

-33

Unpaid inputs

150

104

337

266

309

170

Support

182

104

471

319

496

182

Net return

12

– 25

– 15

-14

160

– 21

Figures from 550 farms of which 40 were organic