Encouragement for organic farming from the Soil Association

Encouragement for organic farming from the Soil Association

In an unprecedented year for businesses and consumers, the organic food and drink market grew 1.6% to £3.1 billion. In 2022 the total UK organic food and drink market experienced its eleventh consecutive year of growth despite economic turmoil, proving that the sector can overcome temporary setbacks. With this in mind, organic growth wasn’t as pronounced as in previous years. But the figures are still positive given the extreme economic conditions of 2022. To put the results in context, the total organic food and drink market was still up 25.4% compared to before the pandemic (2019).

Three underlying factors could contribute to organic’s continued success in 2023. The first is the Scottish government’s ambition to double the amount of organic land, and the resulting ripple effect across supply chains. The second is retailers making more sustainable commercial decisions based on their sustainability commitments. The third is consumers’ understanding of, and engagement with, organic keeping pace with their appetite for solutions to the climate crisis

It’s encouraging to see the Scottish government’s commitment to double organic land by 2026. The Scottish government committed to at least doubling the land under organic management in Scotland with its new Organic Food and Farming Action Plan. The Irish government also committed to almost quadrupling the level of land farmed organically from 2% to 7.5% by 2027 by increasing the budget for its Organic Farming Scheme by 80%. The UK government has so far not made a similar commitment, but organic conversion payments in England under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme doubled in 2022. This investment is encouraging, but more ambition is needed from Westminster so that other parts of the UK can follow this lead.

The Soil Association reports that organic baby food and drink grew an impressive 13.7%, with organic baby food winning 64.5% of total category share. This is a testament to more parents making healthy and sustainable choices for their families. It also shows how organic has the potential to claim huge shares of a category and become industry standard. Building on this early adoption of organic to make it a long-term fixture in family shopping baskets provides strong opportunity for growth

The core strength of organic is the sector’s inherent sustainability impact. Research shows consumers want sustainable and healthy food they can trust. These are long-term trends which will remain even after inflation falls – and organic is perfectly placed to deliver on them all.