Mixed organic record for retailers

 A NEW REPORT from the Soil Association claims that Asda, Morrisons and Tesco are shunning UK beef and pork producers in favour of cheaper imports.

The report is based on a survey carried out by 1200 shoppers around England, Scotland and Wales in November last year when UK organic supplies of beef and pork were readily available.

They found that:

  • Only a fifth of fresh organic pork available in Asda and Morrisons was from UK farms

  • Half of the organic beef and pork from Tesco was imported

This is the second year that the SA has undertaken this survey, and overall, the amount of organic food sourced from UK farmers rose from 72% in 2003 to 76% in 2004 for the products surveyed.

But there were significant variations between products and retailers, according to the report.

The greatest change from last year came in the sourcing of onions: the amount of UK organic onions was nearly 20% higher this year than last.

The survey found significant increases also in the sourcing of UK organic potatoes, but also in imports of organic apples, which increased by 5%, according to the report.

Overall, only a quarter of organic apples on sale were from the UK, as supermarkets had chosen fruit from New Zealand, USA and Italy instead.

The SA found that 100% UK sourcing for most products is possible.

Waitrose achieved the best results overall, with 86% UK sourcing across the products surveyed.

Peter Melchett, the SA‘s policy director, said: “It is unacceptable for staple food to be imported when it is in season in the UK and in plentiful supply.

“Waitrose, Sainsbury‘s and Marks & Spencer are shining examples to the other supermarkets that are still letting down their customers and UK organic farmers by comparison.”

“Tesco accounts for around 30 per cent of all the organic food sold in the UK and their beef and pork buyers could do much more to support organic farmers in this country,” Lord Melchett said.

A Tesco spokesperson commented: “Tesco has helped to grow the organics market by over 20% in the last year and today is the biggest customer of British organic products.”

“We work hard with our British suppliers to increase the amount of organic products we source from the UK, but sometimes we do need to import to meet customer expectations on all year round availability or value.”

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