April 20, 2004,
as reported by just-food.com: Supermarket chains
across the UK are looking beyond their backyards and
out overseas to fulfill domestic demand for organic
goods, according to a recent report issued by the Soil
Association. The report founded on a survey conducted
by the UK-based certifier asserts UK supermarket chains
Tesco, Asda and Safeway are importing substantial amounts
of organic food rather than buying from UK farmers.
These chains are importing goods even when local supplies
are available, according to the survey. In the period
covered by the survey, less than a quarter of the organic
pork on sale in Asda was from UK farms; in Tesco only
half the pork and under half the organic beef was from
the UK. Only 13% of Safeway’s cauliflowers were
homegrown, and in Asda only 19% of onions were homegrown.
In the UK, farmers producing organic pork must meet
high animal welfare standards, which is not always the
case in other countries, the Soil Association warned.
All imported organic food must meet European organic
legal requirements, but for some products such as pork
these may be lower than the standards required of organic
pork reared in the UK.
However, the Soil Association’s survey found
that UK sourcing is possible: in Waitrose all organic
carrots, chicken, beef and pork were home produced,
as was all the organic beef and pork in Safeway. In
Marks & Spencer all organic carrots were from the
UK. Sainsbury’s managed to source 96% of beef
and pork from UK farmers, and Marks & Spencer achieved
95% with beef. Waitrose achieved 99% UK-sourced potatoes.
Peter Melchett, the Soil Association’s policy
director singled out Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and
Marks & Spencer for praise but said that some supermarkets
were letting down UK organic farmers.
“It is unacceptable for staple foods like cauliflowers
and carrots to be imported when they are in season in
the UK, and in plentiful supply. Buying British organic
food supports British farmers, guarantees the highest
standards of animal welfare and helps British wildlife
thrive. It also cuts down unnecessary food miles, reducing
pollution and climate gas emissions,” Melchett
The Government has set a target for 70% of organic
food on sale in supermarkets to be sourced from the
UK by 2010 as part of the Organic Action Plan, which
was launched by the Government in 2002.