Organic farmers 'can't meet soaring demand'

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Farmers in Britain cannot keep up with demand for organic food, MPs were told yesterday. In many cases, they can produce only small quantities, which in turn cost more to transport to the fewplants certified to process chemical-free food.

Farmers in Britain cannot keep up with demand for organic food, MPs were told yesterday. In many cases, they can produce only small quantities, which in turn cost more to transport to the fewplants certified to process chemical-free food.

Representatives of the supermarket chains Sainsbury and Iceland told the Commons Select Committee on Agriculture that they have to import organic food to overcome the shortage of home-grown produce.

Scares about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, genetically modified crops and E. coli bacteria in food have sparked a huge demand for organic produce in recent years.

Bill Wadsworth, technical director of Iceland Frozen Foods, told the committee: "The British farming community has reacted very slowly to this market, whereas other countries are modernising their farms to produce organic food."

Only 3 per cent of British farmland is organic - yet the market is forecast to grow by 40 per cent a year for the next five years, and is expected to be worth in excess of £500m by the end of this year. According to figures supplied by Iceland, 70 per cent of all organic food sold in British supermarkets already comes from overseas.

Mr Wadsworth said the company believed money could be targeted at farmers to allow them to convert from conventional farming to pesticide- and chemical-free farming.

Sainsbury said it would like to offer customers more British organic products but, like Iceland, was unable to do so because of limited supplies.

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