06 August 1997
Cash boost to organic farming

By Boyd Champness

ORGANIC food production in the UK is set to rise by 50% a year, thanks to a Government grant of £240,000 spread over three years.

The Department of Trade and Industry grant of £80,000 a year for the next three years will be matched by the Soil Association – the UKs leading organic food and farming organisation.

A forecast by the association suggests that the funding will enable the industry to expand from its present level of 0.3% of total farm output with 900 producers (52,000ha) to 1.5% of output by 2000, with over 3000 producers. EU farm output devoted to organic farming is currently 1.2%.

Britain currently imports between 70-80% of its organic needs, however, the association believes that the additional funding will enable UK growers to increase their share of the local market to 50%.

The grant comes on the back of a Government announcement last week that conversion packages offered to farmers switching from conventional methods to organic farming will be reviewed. The government is likely to increase funding to farmers during the five-year conversion period, but is unlikely to introduce maintenance grants which already exist in most other EU states.

Meanwhile, the association has launched a fortnightly news service in a bid to keep the public informed and generate more interest in the industry.

Association spokeswoman Tanyia Maxted-Frost said the service would operate free to the public until October, when subscriptions would be introduced. Subscribers will be able to get hold of Organic Food News UK by post, fax or e-mail.

Ms Maxted-Frost said the bi-weekly newsletter would be focused on current affairs relevant to the industry, and would keep the UK media, food and farming industries, politicians and organisations up to date.

She said the newsletter would complement the associations two other quarterly magazines New Farmer and Grower and Living Earth.