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Greater efforts needed to stimulate demand for organic products

16.06.2006
Governments and supermarkets should be doing more to stimulate growth in consumer demand for organic products, according to a major new report by the Centre for Agricultural Strategy of the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

The report considers why farmers in this and four other EU countries (Denmark, Ireland, Italy & Portugal) are increasingly reluctant to consider engaging in organic production, even though the market for organic produce is growing all the time.

“The UK has the third largest retail market for organic produce in the world,” said Mr Philip Jones of the Centre for Agricultural Strategy. “Yet less than half of the produce we buy is home grown.

“Recent increases in the financial support available for organic farmers have failed to halt the continued slowdown in the number of farmers coming forward for conversion to organic production. The situation in some other EU countries is even more challenging, with reversions back to conventional agriculture increasingly common in countries like Denmark.”

The Reading report is based on a large EU-funded research project which shows that farmers face a number of obstacles to organic conversion. These include a lack of established markets for organic produce, particularly for direct and local marketing; falling price premia; and the high investment costs necessary for organic livestock enterprises.

But most importantly, there is a perception among farmers in all the study countries that organic is a niche market with limited growth potential. Mr Jones said: “It is clear that interested parties such as governments and supermarkets should be trying to increase demand for organic products, particularly through raising the awareness of the organic concept amongst the public by means of generic advertising and education campaigns.”

Craig Hillsley | alfa
Further information:
http://www.rdg.ac.uk

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