23 November 2001

Supermarkets do best from organic

FARMERS are missing out on the UK organic boom because of growing supermarket dominance of the sector and a lack of government support, the Soil Association claims.

The UK is the fastest-growing organic market in Europe, according to a Soil Association report published on Monday (Nov 19). UK organic sales grew by a third to £802m in the past year, while the area of fully organic land more than doubled to 240,000ha, claims the Organic Food and Farming Report 2001.

But supermarkets – which saw their market share increase from 74% to 80% in the past year – import three-quarters of their organic food. And where they do use domestic suppliers, they are not paying them enough, the report says. UK farmgate sales were worth just £100m in the past year.

The report calls for retailers to show greater loyalty to domestic suppliers. It also calls for "concrete action" from the government to develop the sector, which is struggling to compete with more generously subsidised EU competitors.

The association has teamed up with nine companies involved in the organic industry – including Waitrose, Sainsburys and Heinz – to launch an organic agenda for the government. It calls for improved support for organic conversion and for environmental stewardship payments after conversion. &#42