Organic conversion boom predicted
The growth in the organic food market as reported by Mintel
(22 December) is reflected in the huge growth of farmland
going into organic conversion in Cornwall over the last twelve
Organic South West says that 1,800 hectares were registered
in Cornwall during this period, an 18 per cent increase on
the 10,000 hectares already certified. This unprecedented
boom reflects the growing interest by farmers in supplying
the UK's fastest growing food market.
Martin Davies, technical adviser for Organic South West,
which promotes organic food and farming in Cornwall and the
Isles of Scilly, says: "We held a conversion conference
in November in conjunction with the Duchy College's
Organic Study Centre that was attended by 60 producers, our
largest yet and I know that many went away determined to start
the conversion process. Public demand for organic food grew
by ten per cent in 2004, at a time when other retail sales
remained stagnant and there is still a massive shortfall in
UK grown produce."
The south west of England has the largest number of organic
farmers in England, with the highest concentration in Cornwall
and Devon. Temperate climate conditions and the diversity
of landscape offer plenty of potential for producing a wide
variety of crops and livestock plus a local market with a
significant number of established processors and marketing
outlets in the region.
Norman Pendray farms 140 acres near Lostwithiel and is 15
months into organic conversion. Originally a dairy farmer
for 30 years, Mr Pendray changed to beef and arable when milk
prices plummeted seven years ago but made the decision to
go organic shortly afterwards. "I was given the
chance to buy a 'closed' organic suckler herd
and jumped at it," he said. "It seemed
the most natural way forward with all the changes to subsidies
and SFP coming in and I'd always wanted to go organic
but it seemed too big a change. The dramatic rise in the cost
of fertilisers and sprays was the final straw and reinforced
my belief that the economics of conventional farming don't
add up any more so I had to change or get out of farming altogether.
"In fact the conversion has been very straightforward
as our own rotations fitted in perfectly with organic requirements
and I'm delighted with the quality and health of my
livestock. I see my neighbours looking over the hedge to check
up on progress and they've been surprised at how weed-free
the grass has grown!"
Modern organic farming methods can produce excellent results
as Martin Davis explains: "I meet many farmers who
seem to think that going organic means turning the clock back
60 years but in fact, as Mr Pendray has found, with different
techniques and modern machinery, production levels can be
high and resource input low, so there is a good return on
your labour especially if a local market can be found for
the end product. Organic South West offers plenty of technical
advice and practical support for anyone going into organic
production so the learning curve is made a lot easier."
Martin Davies added: "Organic South West runs
regular conversion and farm walk events throughout the year
in Cornwall. Anyone wanting to find out more about converting
to organic farming or food production should contact Organic
South West on 01207 78988 or see our website: www.organicsouthwest.org."
Norman Pendray also stresses that the change to organic
farming benefited his second income stream, holiday lets in
a converted barn. "Tourism and organic farming go
hand in hand," he said. "Our visitors
show a genuine interest in what is happening on the farm and
we've incorporated a farm walk to include ponds and
woodland as well as telling them why organic farming is different.
With the Eden project just down the road, the countryside
and environment is high on our visitor's list of interests.
Cornwall and its farmers could be leading the way and showing
people what the future looks like and providing some great
local food too!"
For further information please contact Emma Parkin, PR and
Media on 01392 490009 or email: email@example.com.
The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the
Isles of Scilly has invested in Organic South West through
the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).
Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and
land based industries project is advised to speak with Maria
Ford, at Government Office South West on 01752 635015 before
commencing development as there are now only limited funds
available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural
sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
||A report on organics from market researchers Mintel
forecasts that the market will almost double again by
2010, from £1.2bn to more than £2bn. Concerns
about chemicals in food combined and a trend for ethical
and local products have led to organic sales almost doubling
in the past five years.
||Statistics from Soil Association 'Organic Market
Report 2005', published November 2005.
||Mr Pendray's suckler herd is a Charolais/Simmental
crossed with South Devon bull.
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