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[28 JAN 99] COVENTRY UNIVERSITY PRESS RELEASE
New Research Charts The Concentration Of Britain's Organic Farms

Research conducted by Coventry University's Professor Brian Ilbery and colleagues have identified a particular area of concentration in the   development of Britain's booming organic farm businesses.

In 1990 there were just 630 organic farms, covering 20,000 hectares. By 1997 there were 1,000 organic farms in England and Wales, covering 55,000 hectares. At the same time sales of organic produce increased by 650 per cent.

"We currently import over 70 per cent of our organic produce as demand grows in response to food scares and the development of a 'lifestyle' affiliation with organic foods, through which such foods are seen almost as a status symbol", explains the Professor.

Using a grant of 42,000 from the University, and working with Dr Lewis Holloway and Ruth Arber, Professor Ilbery has identified the changing geography of organic food production.

"Contrary to what might be expected, the concentration of new organic farms in the Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Wiltshire areas has little to do with soil or climate. It is primarily connected to socio-cultural developments and the presence of key innovators and personalities", continues Professor Ilbery.

These developments include boxed delivery schemes for organic produce direct to people's homes and farmers' markets at which farmers sell their produce direct to the consumer.

Also many of the new entrants to the market have taken advantage of the government's Organic Aid Scheme, which provides 450 per hectare to farmers wanting to convert to organic production.

"Many of the producers taking advantage of the scheme are based in marginal cereal producing areas where profits from their present crops are low and the aid provided under the scheme is most attractive", said Professor Ilbery.

There has been little conversion in the main cereal producing areas.

"It is important that we get away from the hippy stereotype sometimes still associated with organic farming. The people who are converting, while being believers in organic farming, are also business people. Given the existing high turnover of entrants into this sector, it remains to be seen how many will stay organic when the conversion money runs out",concludes Professor Ilbery.

MORE INFORMATION:
Cyrrhian Macrae or Floyd Jebson 01203 838352

 

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CWN / Education / Universities / Coventry University / 28 Jan 99

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