14 June 2002

Urgent need for accurate seed market figures

Organic cereal producers

face big challenges in the

near future, according to

speakers at a meeting in

Berks last week.

Andrew Blake reports

UNCERTAINTY over seed supplies, limited data about the best varieties to grow and the threat of sulphur deficiency all came under the spotlight at an open day at Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn, Berks, organised by the Organic Arable Marketing Group, Organic Seed Producers and Elm Farm Research Centre.

A dearth of accurate information on the potential market for organic seed, which should be available from DEFRA off-shoot UKROFS, is making it extremely hard for suppliers to know how to react in the run up to December 2003, says OSPs Roger Wyarrt.

From January 2004, the derogation allowing conventionally produced seed to be used organically runs out. Tighter EU controls will then need to be in place to protect the credibility of organic systems, said Mr Wyarrt.

"We desperately need to know the base area figures on what is being grown in as much detail as we can get. We could then be self-sufficient in organic seed by 2004."

About 10 UK firms supply organic cereal seed and another three are also involved in pulses, he said.

"There will always be some farm-saved seed used. But if the derogation is going we must know what we are trying to achieve by the end of this year.

"But nobody will give us the figures on derogations for the past two years, which suggests Brussels is not being informed either."

"It would be quite wrong to extend derogations for another five years."