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Wales leads the UK as Organic land has increased by 34%

Wales has boosted its take up of organic land more than any other UK country according to a national report. A recent report by DEFRA shows that Wales is leading the UK as organic land in Wales increased by 34% compared with 2009. Over 8% of farmland in Wales is now organic - almost double of that in neighbouring England and the UK average.

The report coincides with news that Aberystwyth-based 'Rachel's' has seen an impressive growth this year. Rachel's has succeeded in growing their share of the organic chilled yogurts and desserts in the UK, from 21.9% two years ago to 30% in 2010, resulting in a call for more organic dairy farmers to meet the boost in demand.

Due to a rapid increase in consumer demand for organic milk, Welsh Organic Milk group Calon Wen are also calling for more organic dairy farmers throughout Wales to meet the new demand.

Graig Producers, an independent collaborative livestock marketing group, with several hundred farming members across Wales and England has stated that with increase in demand, they are selling members' livestock at historically good prices, and without any delays. With the average growth of organic beef sales up by 30 percent over the past 12 months, there is little sign of that strong demand dropping off at present.

Sue Fowler Director of OCW said: “It is encouraging to see that Wales continues to be the UK leader for organic.

“The growth in demand and sales seen at Calon Wen, Rachel's and Graig Producers is extremely positive and are great examples of how collaborative efforts are an important factor to success within the organic sector”

The DEFRA report shows no evidence to indicate that farmers are 'turning away' from organic practices, but simply a slowing in conversion. Over 80 percent of Welsh farmers that responded to the Organic Centre Wales 2010 Producer Survey stated their intention to maintain or expand their current organic system, with only 3% intending to move back to conventional farming.

Sue Fowler Director of Organic Centre Wales added: “In Wales, the slowing in conversion could be related to the uncertainty of government support through Glastir.

“It is promising in a recent statement on Glastir that the Minister gave the commitment to 'ensuring a sustainable organic sector in Wales'. This is likely to bring reassurance to existing organic farmers, and those who are considering the switch to organic methods”

It is believed that the main challenge for those marketing organic products relates to consumers not understanding how food is produced and therefore not knowing why or how organic may be better. To tackle this issue, Organic Centre Wales is running a three year project funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to help explain to consumers what the label 'organic' means, and to encourage support of organic farmers and the organic food supply chain.

Consumer support is vital to continue to lead the way in sustainable food production. Organic September is fast approaching, marking the month to celebrate all things organic. Last year's Organic Fortnight increased sales of organic food and drink by 15.5 percent.

For more information please contact Lara Hallett at MGB PR on 01792 460200

Notes for editors
1. OCW is the national resource for consumers, farmers and policy makers committed to more sustainable food and farming in Wales. Based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. See www.organiccentrewales.org.uk.

2. BOBL is an Organic Centre Wales project and funded under the Supply Chain Efficiencies scheme as part of the Welsh Assembly Government Rural Development Plan. The project is designed to support the primary producer in Wales and grow the market for Welsh organic produce in a sustainable way. The project is developing new, emerging and existing markets for organic produce whilst driving innovation, at all levels, within the supply chain. The overall aim is to support a thriving Welsh organic sector so that the benefits of WG investment in the Organic Farming Scheme to generate agri-environmental benefits, and in the Welsh Organic Action Plan to support rural development and sustainable food production, can be fully realised.

3. Farming Connect, Farming Connect is an integrated, Wales-wide scheme for farm and forestry businesses in Wales. It is funded through the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013, which is financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. The scheme provides an accessible and flexible range of services including one-to-one support, knowledge, expertise, training and advisory services tailored to individual need. Many services are fully funded, and others are subsidised by 80% for all eligible farmers. All of them help farmers to run their businesses more efficiently. For further information call the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813.

4. The Organic Conversion Information Service is funded by the Welsh Government to provide information to producers, to enable them to make an informed decision on whether to change to organic management and certification – the helpline, an information pack and up to three free on-farm visits are available. Contact the OCW helpline on: 01970 622100.

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