Scots look to organic farming
By Allan Wright
THERE has been a fourfold increase in the number of Scottish farmers interested in switching to organic production in the past year, according to Scottish Agricultural College organic specialist David Younie.
“We have had 270 calls to our helpline since last July and about 100 other enquiries through our area offices,” he said.
“Low prices for conventional crops, anticipation of higher grants to convert to organic production, and continued premiums for the produce lie behind the increased interest.”
The college already has two organic farms and is switching the 120-cow dairy herd at Craibstone, near Aberdeen, to organic production. “There is a huge demand for organic milk for yoghurt and other dairy products as well as liquid milk,” said Mr Younie.
“Supplies are currently being imported from Holland. We began the Craibstone conversion in April and will be producing organic milk in 2000.”
“Organic milk is selling at 29ppl – a premium of at least 10p – and we are confident that organic is such a powerful selling tool that much of the premium will remain for milk and other crops even if there is a marked rise in production.”
To promote the concept, the college is organising three open days on selected organic farms within the next fortnight to offer advice to interested producers.
More practical help for would-be organic farmers is expected from the Aberdeen University centre for organic agriculture. Its research programme, partly funded by Tesco, hopes to deliver alternatives to antibiotics and chemicals in animal production and mechanical and rotational methods of weed and disease control in arable crops.