Land in conversion to organic sees growth, Defra says

Organic arable farming saw a 7% increase in 2020, Defra's figures show (Photo: Soil Association)
Organic arable farming saw a 7% increase in 2020, Defra's figures show (Photo: Soil Association)

Land in the United Kingdom in-conversion to organic increased by nearly 12 percent last year, according to new figures released by Defra.

The latest Organic Statistics for 2020 show an increase in certified organic land in conversion, a trend that has increased every year since 2014, with the exception of 2019.

Organic arable farming saw a 7% increase in 2020, mirroring Europe where the number of producers and amount of organic land continues to rise in line with the EU’s goal for 25% of all farmland to be organic by 2030.

Organic production comes from fully converted land. Before an area can be considered as fully organic, it must undergo a conversion process.

The area in-conversion expressed as a percentage of the total organic area can give an indication of the potential growth in the organic sector.

Responding to the figures, Soil Association Certification said there was a growing consumer demand for organic which was in turn driving an uplift in farmers seeking conversion.

The volume of land currently under conversion to organic with Soil Association Certification has grown even more rapidly – a 24% increase in the year to March 2021.

The assurance scheme's development manager, Sophie Kirk said: “We welcome these UK stats from Defra which demonstrate positive growth and confidence in the organic sector.

“The incentive for farmers to convert to organic is a direct response to the significant and sustained growth in demand for organic produce through the pandemic."

She also said there was a growing interest amongst consumers and farmers for farming to provide more benefits for the environment and the climate.

“The opportunity is now for UK governments to incentivise the delivery of public goods such as clean water and air, improved biodiversity and reduced flooding through enhanced support for organic farming systems and practices.”

The UK organic market is now worth £2.79 billion, seeing record growth in 2020 at 12.6%, according to Soil Association's organic market report.

Products such as organic carrots, beef and lamb have seen strong uplifts in sales during the pandemic, as consumers turned to organic box schemes.