Welsh organic lands, challenges keeps growing

February 20, 2004, organic-research.com: Wales organic lands soar 900 percent since 1998 according to a new report from the Organic Centre Wales, Aberystwyth. The report also notes the retail market for organic fruit and vegetables in Wales was in about £20 million for the year 2002/03. While organic agriculture has made great strides in the Welsh landscape and marketplace, organic growers still continue to struggle according to findings.

“Whilst these are challenging times, opportunities still exist for Welsh organic growers” said Nic Lampkin, Director of Organic Centre Wales. “Forming producer groups is one way to access new markets, as well as the potential for supplying Welsh food manufacturers, direct sales and public procurement initiatives.”

The report recommends that improved cooperation, supply continuity, and information could open significant market opportunities for Welsh organic growers. There is great potential for public procurement – supplying Welsh schools, hospitals and local authorities with fresh, healthy, local organic fruit and vegetables. Supplying food processors could also reduce imports. For instance, ingredients supply for soup manufacturing, baking, and soft drinks.

Organic horticultural production now accounts for 10 percent of the total horticultural land in Wales, according to the report. This compares to UK organic horticulture, which accounts for just 4 percent of the total horticultural land in the UK.

A survey of Welsh organic growers identified a number of key challenges including price deflation, market access, and labor availability. Growers supplying to supermarkets suffered from a high level of grade-outs. In addition, smaller growers are facing heightened competition within an increasingly rationalized supply base. The study also found that Welsh consumers have a strong belief in supporting local farmers – more than in any other region in the UK. They are also less ‘put-off’ by the price of organic food.

The report, supported by Farming Connect, is the first detailed study into Welsh organic horticulture production. The full document, ‘Improving market intelligence for organic horticulture in Wales’, can be downloaded from the Organic Centre Wales website.