Organic food has become a victim of its own success, says a new report.
The sector has exploded in the last few years, growing by 70 per cent since 2002. But a report from market research company Mintel says the industry is now threatened by its own popularity.
The report, published yesterday says the reluctance of farmers to convert their land to organic, and demand for biofuels, is limiting supply, particularly of grain to feed livestock.
And organic shoppers are unwilling to accept imported food, further increasing pressure on UK farmers, it claims.
“No one can deny the benefits of supporting British producers but this dramatic shift towards British organic food has created serious supply problems – there is simply not enough British-grown organic food.” it says.
According to the report, the UK market for organic food will grow from pounds1.5 billion in 2007 to pounds2.2 billion in 2012. The Soil Association welcomed the increase in demand, describing it as a “major opportunity” for farmers, but said the Mintel figures were conservative, with organic sales “nudging pounds2 billion” in 2006.
Organic farmers in the Westcountry do not seem worried about keeping up with demand. Ben Moseley grows organic vegetables with Rodney Hall at Bickham Farm, near Exeter and feels able to meet the needs of his customers.
“If there’s really a demand there’s plenty of people out there wanting to grow organic food,” he said.
He described the report as “simplistic”, saying there were a number of issues affecting the supply of organic food, including seasonal fluctuations.
Meanwhile NFU spokesman Ian Johnson dismissed concerns about biofuels affecting supply. He said: “There aren’t that many people growing for biofuels. That isn’t the big issue.”