UK’s Appetite for Organic Produce Grows, But Domestic Farmland Fails to Keep Pace

23/02/2024

Organic Market Flourishes

THE UK’s organic food and drink market has celebrated its 12th consecutive year of growth, culminating in a 2% increase in 2023, with the market’s value now reaching a notable £3.2 billion. This figure is nearly twice the amount it was a decade ago, indicating a sustained and growing interest in organic products among British consumers.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

Stagnant Farmland Growth

Despite the burgeoning market, the UK’s organic farmland has not expanded, remaining constant at 3% of total farmland. This is in stark contrast to the European organic sector, which has seen a significant increase of 5.1%, bringing the total to 16.9 million hectares, representing 10.4% of all European farmland.

Heavy Reliance on Imports

The Soil Association’s latest report points to a concerning trend: the UK’s organic sector heavily depends on imported goods to meet consumer demand. This reliance comes even as shoppers are spending a third more on organic produce compared to five years ago, yet the domestic farmland allocated to organic production has not experienced any growth.

Call for a “Radical Rethink”

Alex Cullen, the Commercial Director of Soil Association Certification, has called for a significant shift in approach to elevate organic farming within the UK. “We need a radical rethink if organic is going to reach its full potential and bring organic farming into the mainstream,” he stated. The push for growth must involve the entire supply chain and garner support from the government, with inspiration to be taken from European counterparts who benefit from greater governmental and retail backing.

Supermarket Sales Rebound

Supermarkets have seen a return to form in organic sales after a slight dip in the previous year, with the sector now valued at £2 billion, up 2.7%. This rebound suggests a resilient consumer base that continues to prioritize organic options where available.

Food Service Sector Holds Steady

Following an impressive surge in 2022, the food service industry’s engagement with organic produce has stabilized in 2023. This steadiness indicates that the previous year’s growth was not a fleeting trend, but rather a sign of the sector’s commitment to offering organic choices.

The current landscape of the UK’s organic market presents a mixed picture: consumer demand is on the rise, but domestic production is not keeping up. The Soil Association’s report underscores the need for a collaborative effort to stimulate homegrown organic farming and reduce the dependency on imports, ensuring that the UK’s organic sector can fully thrive.

The latest stories