1 March 2002

UK retailers to act now for organics

CERTAIN sectors of organic produce are in over-supply and the retail trade must act before UK growers quit organics altogether, the NFU has warned.

Somerset dairy and cereals farmer Oliver Dowding, who was voted in this week as the first chairman of the new NFU organic committee, said there was "no earthly reason" why retailers should import the vast majority of organic lines.

The organic share of the lamb, beef and milk sectors are very small – between 1-3% of the total. Mr Dowding said that some markets were now over-supplied.

"With a small market you can topple the balance very easily, especially when that market is prepared to use imports," said Mr Dowding.

He said that retailers claims that they were tied into contracts with foreign suppliers before UK organic produce became available do not stack up.

"This may be true for some, but retailers are not well-known for signing long-term contracts."

Mr Dowding and Kent top fruit grower Peter Hall, who was voted in as vice-chairman of the organic committee, said the NFU wanted to work with retailers to address the problem and promote UK produce to consumers.

One of the committees first tasks will be to gather the details of an estimated 200 farmers left ineligible to apply for aid when they converted to organic farming.

DEFRA has agreed to review the case of farmers whose registration certificate was issued between November 1999 and July 2000.

This eight-month period was between the ending of the first phase of the scheme but before the six month cut off period for eligibility for the second phase, which opened in January 2001.

&#8226 The countrys second largest organic certification body has warned that organic food production in the UK couldbe strangled by governmentred tape. Organic Farmers & Growers said some of the questions it is required to ask its 934 licensed producers were pointless. It claimed that over-regulation is a major deterrent to people wanting to produce or invest inorganic food. &#42