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
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
"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.
Cyrrhian Macrae or Floyd Jebson 01203 838352