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 said.
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.