Organic farmers call on government to get behind sector

PUBLISHED: 11:23 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:24 05 April 2018

John Pawsey on his organic farm near Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

John Pawsey on his organic farm near Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

There is a reluctance to convert to organic farming in East Anglia, despite the obvious financial benefits, a prominent Suffolk organic farmer claims.

John Pawsey on his organic farm at Shimpling. Picture: GREGG BROWNJohn Pawsey on his organic farm at Shimpling. Picture: GREGG BROWN

John Pawsey, of Shimpling Park Farm, Bury St Edmunds, who was speaking in support of a call by the English Organic Forum for stronger support for the sector when environment secretary Michael Gove is formulating his farming policy.

Forum chair Nic Lampkin said the UK needed to “up its game” and focus more on organic food and farming if it is to reach its ambition for a new agricultural policy that delivers public goods as well as economic benefits.

“Organic food and farming is closely aligned to the Government’s key aspiration of a ‘Green Brexit’. We would like to have seen more focus on organic, with all its benefits, in the consultation proposals on future food and farming policy,” he said.

John, a fourth generation farmer who started converting to organic in 1999, said more UK farmers ought to be encouraged to go organic.

“Although ministers are more likely to use the word ‘organic’ than under the last Prime Minister, there is still a reluctance to get behind organics as a system that as Nic Lampkin says is conducive to the government’s Green Brexit stance,” he said.

“Combinable crop farmers, especially in the east, are reluctant to convert even though the opportunities are there as currently we are importing 70% of organic feed fed to organic animals in the region and supermarkets are increasingly wanting those animals to fed on UK produced grains. Although the demand for organic produce is going up, the land converting to organic is still dwindling or is static at best.

“I believe that some positive words and financial support from the Government might give some farmers the confidence to convert. Certainly our own business has increased by 30% in organic area over the last 24 months, but we are not typical.”

According to the Organic Trade Board, the UK organic market is worth £2.2bn, the European organic market more than £30bn and globally it has reached £70bn.

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