5 January 2001
Organic cash pulls in farmers

By FWi staff

THE number of farmers wanting to convert to organic production has surged since the government released 13 million of new funds on Tuesday (2 January).

Ministry of Agriculture officials at Crewe, Cheshire, who are dealing inquiries to the Organic Farming Scheme, have sent out 2000 application forms.

A MAFF spokeswoman said 88 completed forms had already been returned from farmers seeking money to help with the cost of organic conversion.

“Someone actually came all the way from Kent to talk through the scheme with one of our administrators,” she told FARMERS WEEKLY.

It was still too early to gauge the true extent of the response, the spokeswoman added. Further applications are expected over coming weeks.

There is scope for expansion as demand for organic food in this country is booming and the UK imports an estimated 70% of its organic produce.

The Soil Association, the leading UK organic certification body, said applications to turn organic had quadrupled in the last four months.

Last month, agricultural certification manager Tamsin Borcase dealt with 92 applications, compared with 50 in November, 34 in October and 14 in September.

“This is a direct response to the new funds,” she said. “We were telling people money is about to become available and they have responded.”

But the second biggest organic body, Organic Farmers and Growers, said increased demands for information had yet to translate into concrete applications.

“The surge of applications last time the scheme opened in 1999 was extremely difficult for organic bodies to keep up with,” said manager John Dalby.