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17.05.06
South West organic enterprises to benefit from new business support

Organic farmers and food producers across the entire South West region of England are to benefit from a new range of business support services put together by the Bristol-based Soil Association with the help of the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), Defra and South West Food and Drink. Nearly 100 farmers and organic food producers from across the region attended a special seminar in Exeter where new initiatives were announced on Friday 12 May 2006.

Phil Stocker, head of the Soil Association's Food and Farming department said: "This is a momentous occasion and the South West has been chosen in recognition of the high number of certified organic producers already established in this area. The resurgence of interest in organic food nationally provides real opportunities to expand and rebuild existing businesses whilst still leaving room for new start-ups."

With over 1,000 producers, the South West (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire) has 25 per cent of England's certified organic enterprises and 40 per cent of its organic land area. Following the occurrence of the last Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, agriculture has gone through a radical change and been subject to considerable changes in policy. Anna Bassett is the new senior development officer for Organic South West and her role is to effect a strategy maximising opportunities for organic businesses across the whole of the South West.

"My first task is to identify the barriers, perceived or actual, that exist between producers, food processors and the retail industry," said Anna. "We already know that there is a huge demand for organic food by consumers, much of which is still met by imports. This is clearly unsustainable and simply shows the potential market for locally grown, seasonal and high quality products that will ultimately benefit the south west's local economy and communities."

Mike Johns, SWRDA's Food and Rural Enterprise manager attending the meeting said: "The organic sector is one of the fastest growing in the food industry and with its significant contribution towards tourism and the environment has an important role to play in the development of the region's economy. We are all indebted to some of the pioneering organic producers in this part of the world who have lead the way in creating the market," continued Mr Johns, "However as more people join the sector, we recognise their need for business support during this dramatic increase in growth."

The new services announced on Friday will be under the leadership of Organic South West, which was established in 2000 to promote organic food and farming in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Now under the management of Traci Lewis, this offshoot of the Soil Association provides technical help and support for producers converting to organic growing throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Supported by Objective One investment from 2002, the project also assists food processors and small businesses with marketing and design expertise to help them enter the food market on both a regional and national level.

For further information please contact Emma Parkin, PR and Media on 01392 490009 or email: em.parkin@blueyonder.co.uk.

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 Martin Butler at Government Office South West on 01752 635134 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.

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Editor's notes:

The organic market development project is funded by SWRDA and SW Food and Drink.

Organic South West is a Soil Association project, part funded by the EAGGF and Defra through the Objective One Programme, to help grow the organic market in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. They provide technical, business and market support across the supply chain to businesses that produce, process and retail organic produce. They also operate an Objective One business grant scheme of up to 50% funding for organic businesses that wish to develop their business. For more information see: www.organicsouthwest.org.

Press release issued and distributed on behalf of Organic South West by Emma Parkin, PR and Media. Tel. 01392 490009 or email: em.parkin@blueyonder.co.uk.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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