Organic land in UK continues long-term decrease

Land used for organic farming in the UK has declined for the ninth year in the past 10, as acreage with a low production value has ceased to be used for agriculture.

The latest Defra statistics for 2018 show the UK has a total area of 474ha farmed organically, a decrease of 8.4% on the previous year.

See also: New, free advice service for farmers considering going organic

Just 2.7% of the total farmed area in the UK is used for organic cultivation, but the amount of land in conversion to organic has continued its modest five-year climb.

Land in the process of becoming organic hit a six-year high last year, reaching 32,900ha, up 0.9% on 2017 but down 72.4% on the highs of a decade ago.  

Organic livestock producer and processors numbers in the UK fell by 6% in 2018, but Defra said  this was largely a result of a recalibration of how producers were classified and could not be attributed to a genuine drop.

Cattle and poultry livestock numbers increased by 10.3% and 10.5% to 324,100 and 3.38 million respectively, whereas numbers of sheep and pigs fell having both increased in 2016/17.


In 2018 there were 826,600 organic sheep in the UK and 37,400 pigs, according to Defra.

All three main crop types: cereals, vegetables including potatoes and other arable crops have continued their decline over the past decade, largely emulating the fall in area farmed.

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