Organic industry unable to cope with demand

British shoppers have embarked on a love affair with organic food, sending sales soaring year after year, but now its runaway success is being threatened: by its very popularity.

The sector, which has seen explosive growth of 70 per cent since 2002, is now facing shortages, according to a report published today. The market research company Mintel says the reluctance of farmers to convert their land to organic, and demand for biofuels, is limiting supply, particularly of grain to feed livestock.

Shoppers are reluctant to accept imported organic food, with imports falling from 70 per cent to 30 per cent, further increasing pressure on UK farmers. "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," Mintel said.

"The conversion process from regular to organic farming takes several years to complete," said David Bird, the report's author. "Because of this, many producers have not been able to react quickly to satisfy growing demand for home-grown organic food, and this has undoubtedly had a huge impact on the market."

According to the report, the UK market for organic food will grow from £1.5bn in 2007 to £2.2bn in 2012. Fruit and vegetables are expected to remain the most popular category, worth around £500m in 2007 – a third of the total sales.

Health was the most important reason people bought organic, a trend expected to be reinforced by a study from Newcastle University showing organic food to be higher in antioxidants and minerals. A third of people said it was worth buying organic food, compared with 24 per cent in 2003. Greater health concerns, media coverage of health scares and interest in the production and provenance of food were all driving sales.

"Further value rises have been impeded by undersupply in some segments. A serious shortfall in grain has, for example, affected supply to the meat, cereal and egg markets, while insufficient organic arable land has affected fruit and vegetable production," the report said.

Many farmers, the report added, were reluctant to convert their land because they were concerned that the popularity of organic food would be short-lived.

As new producers slowly entered the market and more land became available, Mintel predicted the market would surge in value.

While fruit, vegetables and dairy have been the most successful organic products to date, organic meat is expected to grow 71 per cent within five years – the fastest of any sector.

"Consumers are set to think more about the meat they buy following Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall's controversial and highly emotive TV programmes highlighting intensive poultry farming," said Mr Bird.

The Soil Association, Britain's leading certification body, said there were many reasons why people bought organic. It described Mintel's £1.5bn figure as "conservative" and pointed out its latest organic market report had sales nudging £2bn in 2006. It said it was working with farmers to encourage supply.

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'