12 July 2000
Back organics to stem imports, MPs told

By FWi staff

IMPORTS of organic food will continue to flood into Britain unless there is an increase in government support for organic farmers, MPs have been told.

The warning was made on Wednesday (12 July) to an Agriculture Select Committee inquiry into the regulation, promotion and marketing of organic food.

Tim Bennett, deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said that the number of farmers applying to convert to organic was in danger of falling.

He said: “Unless significant changes to the public support system are made, imports will continue to supply the bulk of our organic market.”

Producers in other European Union countries were better supported than British farmers during conversion and, in many cases, afterwards as well, said Mr Bennett.

“This [enables] those in receipt of better support to market their products at lower prices than UK producers, effectively undercutting UK production.”

The governments Organic Farming Scheme which was launched last year in a bid to encourage British farmers to go organic ran out of cash after just four months.

Further support arrangements are unlikely to be available before April 2001.

The NFU suggests better targeted grants will help unlock the huge potential to increase organic production, particularly for fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Mr Bennett said: “Imports are currently crucial to market supply and development but this is not a desirable long-term situation.