12 October 1999
Organic shoppers want British

ORGANIC consumers are prepared to pay more to buy British, claims a spokesman for the Soil Association.

This comes as the group, which promotes organic farming, today publishes a report saying domestic producers cannot meet demand, and calling for extra government conversion funding.

It reports that 70% of organic food consumed in UK is imported. The market has grown at around 40% per annum in the past five years.

Simon Brenman of the Soil Association told Radio 4s Farming Today: “We are changing the culture in which the public value food.

“Theyre saying its not just a commodity product to be bought at the lowest possible price.

“Its a product which is essential for the health of themselves and obviously the health of the environment and people who live in the countryside.”

Mr Brenman rejected the argument that if organic food was cheaper abroad, it should be imported, rather than cash going to fund conversion programmes here.

He said it was “arguable” whether other countries could produce cheaper as, while cheaper labour could “distort” the picture, transport costs had to be considered.

He added: “The key point is that there is very, very strong support among the British public to be buying British.

“Our research shows that people value not just the lack of artificial pesticides and fertilisers, but also the environmental protection, animal welfare standards which go with that.

“They want that in this country. They dont want to pay a premium to support responsible management of the countryside outside of the UK.”